Ivor O’Connor

January 4, 2009

Ubuntu & The HP Officejet Pro L7780 All-in-One, REVISITED

Now that I’ve been using the HP Officejet Pro L7780 extensively and feel like I know the printer inside-out my feelings have solidified since writing

Ubuntu & The HP Officejet Pro L7780 All-in-One

The L7780 All-in-One is the best you can buy for a Linux machine. However it is not good enough. It’s a good first attempt at a workable All-in-One solution for us Linux users. Hopefully the next generation will be useable…

Scanning. The document feeder does not handle double sided pages well. If you are patient, don’t mind starting a 10 page scan multiple times, clearing out paper jambs, then perhaps this printer will be good enough for you. You’ll also have documents that are often askew since the feeder does a poor job of keeping them aligned. If time is money for you then get a M$ solution using paperport and the Brother MFC 8660DN All-in-One for scanning. It’s like comparing an old beat up 60 year old vehicle with a new car. If you want to get across the country and not make it a three month experience you’ll want the new vehicle.

Sending Faxes. The L7780 fax works fine. However it does not give you a confirmation with the picture of the first page. This makes the confirmation virtually useless. And without a confirmation why bother sending a fax involving money? In other words the fax on the L7780, though it works, is useless in a business environment.
2009.03.16 UPDATE: Receiving Faxes. I was getting four or so junk fax receipts to every good fax. A junk fax receipt is where somebody attempts to send you something but the L7780 prints a page saying the line quality or the sending fax machine is not up-to-par and so the L7780 was not able to receive the fax. Instead it simply says a fax was missed. GRRRRR. I don’t get this problem with my Brother MFC 8660DN. Every time the fax line rings a good fax is printed. Regardless of poor line quality or an out-of-date fax machine on the other end. As a result I unplugged the fax line from the HP machine and now use the MFC machine exclusively. I can’t be losing money due to missed faxes!

Printing. The print quality is good enough. It’s nice to print out pictures from a digital camera. I understand there are much better printers for this but this is acceptable for me. The speed is not so great. It chugs and pauses and chugs and pauses and chugs away and pauses some more before each page is printed. And if it is double sided then you have to wait while it holds the page waiting for the ink to dry. I’m not too keen on the chugging. The entire desk shakes. The printer is going to wear itself out in a few years the way it bangs about.
2009.03.16 UPDATE: I bought a new box of paper from CostCo and the printer does not seem to like it. The paper I got says “Advantage Multi-System Paper, NOW Brighter! 92 Brightness, 20 weight (lb) 10 reams 5000 total sheets quantity, Letter”. The first 4 sheets of paper I printed the same thing on hoping it would get better. Each time the printer would spend a few minutes shaking and twittering doing self-diagnostics. Each time parts of the standard black lines would be faded or missing. On the fourth try it got everything right. I had turned off the machine on a couple of those tests hoping that would reset things. Well this morning it’s back to not printing out correctly. There are no error messages. Nothing needing refilling. It’s just not printing right. Not sure what to do about this. I don’t want to waste another hour fiddling with it. Why can’t it simply just work?
2009.03.17 UPDATE: Sometime during the day the printer decided to start printing correctly. It probably took 20 or so pages before the fading stopped and the print outs started looking normal.

Document Feeder. It seems to be made of small plastic melting gears driven by a malnourished hampster. As you listen to it get on with a big document you can’t help but cross your fingers as the gears sound as if they are getting worse and worse. They make grinding sounds and random clicks. The tiny motor seems too under-powered as it slows from time-to-time. And the paper-jambs are ever-present…

Ink. The old L7780 I sent back dribbled through two yellow cartridges. I think perhaps it was defective. The new L7780 has not wasted any ink yet. I hope it stays that way. Ink costs are not that high. They seem comparable with the toner cartridges on a laser printer. They cost significantly less but are used up much more frequently. Of course I’d rather have an option to use large bottles of ink so the price could be dramatically decreased. It might even be cheaper than toners. (Don’t buy from HP. Instead buy the long lasting cartridges that have double or triple the capacity at a third the price dropping the cost by almost a magnitude.)
2009.03.01 UPDATE: The ink cartridges will not stay in the machine! I changed a cartridge, closed the door, and the printer spits not only the one I changed out but the one next to it! I spent half an hour trying to get the cartridges to stay in with no luck. Apparently they are spring loaded and are suppose to catch on something but they are not. Finally out of desperation I put some packing foam between the cheap plastic door and the ink cartridges to keep them from popping out. The door looks like it will break at some point but this solution has worked now for more than two weeks. This printer reminds me of the toys found in the bottom of cereal boxes.

Conclusion. It’s a toy attempting to offer everything. If you only have a Linux computer then you have no choice and must buy this All-in-One from HP. However if you have business needs then you’ve got to dump it and move to M$ and more heavy duty solutions…

2009.03.16 UPDATE: HP has a new printer out. It’s supposedly for business. About $100 more than this one. The “HP Officejet Pro 8500 Premier” is priced in the low $400s. Basically half a grand with shipping and such. I’m very dubious since it looks similar to the L7780. It does not even hold a ream of paper. Shouldn’t a business printer hold two or three reams? Hmmm. Ok, what about the digital filing capabilities? Did they clean it up so the PDF pages are automatically straightened before they are saved away? Probably not. HP certainly has the name. Too bad they don’t pay attention to the final details the way Apple does inorder to make insanely great products…

2009.03.16 UPDATE: I’m at the point where I’m thinking a single function color laser printer from HP would be the way to go. Surely HP does a decent job on a single function printer? However this HP Officejet Pro L7780 All-in-One, except for the unaligned cattywompus scanning of single sided pages into PDFs on a linux machine, is not a workable solution. It’s as if it is an alpha version of a demo. It’s a shame HP does not take pride in making complete working solutions. I can’t recommend the L7780 as a productive useful ready for business product. Perhaps it’s suited for kids and students who have the time to fiddle endlessly with it.

2009.04.13 UPDATE: Over the weekend I scanned in over 600 documents using the digital filing feature. That’s the feature making HPs unique. They leave a PDF image on my Ubuntu machine in the directory I specified. I noticed that every 100 or so documents the feed mechanism would get confused and leave the last sheet still in the mechanism. At first I would turn off and on the machine hoping it’s power on check would spit the sheet out. When that did not work after consistently I tried just reading in the next document as if there were no documents stuck in the machine. This worked. I’d get some sort of error but the new document would not be read in and the sheet stuck in the machine would be spit out.

2009.04.13 UPDATE: I got a new type of paper-jam today. Usually the paper-jams, 99% of them, are due to the poor quality document feeder. This one was in the print mechanism. I had to split the printer apart at the joint under the big keypad and remove the paper there. It wasn’t too bad. However it was the last thing I thought of checking and I already had the thing apart on the floor…

2009.04.15 UPDATE: While changing the ink cartridges the old problem of them popping out as soon as I closed the lid resurfaced. Basically the cartridges pop out as soon as the print heads pass by them. This only happens after you close the cartridge lid and the printer does it’s thing to recognize them. My old solution of padding the interior with foam packing was no longer working. Or it would work for a few minutes. This time I fixed the problem by noticing the interior of the ink cartridge area has some holes on the side that would hold a reinforcing bar. That bar, or dowel, would then snuggly keep pressure on the backs of all four ink cartridges. I looked around for something I could use and settled on a writing pen. I cut it down to the right length, stuck it in, and voila. Perfect fit. It keeps a slight but solid pressure from behind on all the ink cartridges. The lid can be closed so it’s not noticed. And if I ever send the printer back my HP warranty will still be good. What a pain in the neck though. Why does HP make its customers go through this crap?

2009.04.16 UPDATE: I used the chat facility on HPs website to ask if there were an equivalent of the L7780 using laser instead of ink. Yes, the lowest cost LaserJet solution is $2,499.99! It is their new HP Color LaserJet CM3530 MFP. Despite this costing two grand more it still does not have a fax machine. That version of the model goes for three grand. And yet the fax machine still does not print an image of the first page with the status of the transmission. The person said none of the HP faxes have this functionality. So basically you need to use another company if faxes are important. This printer has the equivalent of “Digital Filing” but they call it something else. I did not ask if it worked with Linux and Ubuntu in particular. I assume it does and they probably wouldn’t know anyways. There are no wireless options. It is still maringal in that it only accepts 500 sheets of paper if you buy the optional paper tray. (Why can’t they just make the standard paper tray hold 1500 sheets of paper?) If possible, that is if I see one on craigs list for under $800 which is what the product should really be selling for, I’ll buy one. As it is there is no way I’d spend nearly $3000 dollars on a printer with lousy specs. What are they thinking? I wonder what they use for their HP-UX computers?

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November 23, 2008

Ubuntu & The HP Officejet Pro L7780 All-in-One

I’ve been using the HP Officejet Pro L7780 for a few weeks now. It works with Ubuntu probably as well as it does with M$ or the Mac. I can print, scan, fax, copy, and most importantly use the “Direct Digital Filing” to scan documents directly from the printer to PDF documents on my Ubuntu laptop. No special software is needed. It’s probably the best printer than can be bought in the *nix/bsd world bar none. Perhaps the best printer money can buy for a small home office.

I’m going to keep updating this post with the pros and cons as I come across them. There will probably be more negatives than pros since if it works I don’t think about it. Only when it is causing me problems… So on that note.

CONS

  1. Double sided digital scans always cause a paper jamb! Case number 8019332220. I’m calling 1-800-hpinvent to talk with tech support about this since I really need double sided scans. The phone call started a little before 12 on Saturday afternoon. Charu is the tech’s name who is attempting to help me with this problem. I’m asked for my name, case number, and then my operating system. To avoid needless problems I say I’m using Windows XP. I learned the hard way saying “ubuntu” confuses them so much they can’t continue. To help with the paper jamb I’m sent a link to a document on how to clear paper jambs. We blindly go through it together. Little by little they start to understand the problem. Finally I’m told they’ll need to send me another printer. I was hoping for a fix over the phone but oh well. I hope it’s really a printer problem and not a bad setting somewhere. At this point I’m told I should go for an extended warranty. I’m generally not at all interested in any “insurance” but since this printer has already given me more grief than all past printers combined I decide it is probably a good idea. I go for the three year policy rather than the four year since I think this printer will need a total upgrade by then. They give me an “Agreement Number: CA02470202-0001”. Mohit senior hardware technician then proceeded to get the details from me so they can ship a new printer. Unfortunately after 2:13 minutes on the phone with them he said he’d have to call me back in half an hour when his computer becomes available again. He said the new printer will not have ink, print heads, cords, or any other materials. Just the printer. I hope the ink cartridges don’t dribble out again when I move them over to the new printer. I wish this all this could be done by somebody else besides myself. Wasting 2 hours for something simple is not my idea of time well spent. I’m certainly glad I had an ear piece on and could do other things while being on hold and such for 2+ hours. Mohit finally called me back. My replacement printer will be arriving on December 24th.
  2. WHEN YOU REMOVE AN INK CARTRIDGE AND PUT IT BACK THERE IS A CONSIDERABLE CHANCE IT WILL BLEED DRY WITHIN 24 HOURS REQUIRING YOU TO BUY ANOTHER CARTRIDGE!!! GRRRRR. I talked to the local toner supply people about this and they said it’s highly irregular. I called HP and they are going to send me another toner cartridge and a postage pre-paid box to send the cartridge that dribbled out. I only did this because I had to use their tech support to figure out my fax confirmation options. As an afterthought I asked about the toner. Even though I was already on the line with them it took me another 30 minutes of answering, and reanswering, the same questions again. It was not worth the time it took. Once down that fork though, of asking about the toner, there was no turning back. HP needs to work on their support speeds.
  3. It’s very difficult to run pages through the feeder correctly. They want to pull to one side or the other. Even crumple. And to top it off it’s difficult to remove the paperjams.
  4. Every once in a while the feeder will get confused and after passing a page through, just before spitting it out, pull the paper back in. Happens perhaps one out of every hundred sheets. Turning off the power and turning it back on does not clear the paper out. I have to reach in and forcefully tug the paper. It requires lots of care and an even broad grip or I risk tearing the paper and then I’d have no idea how to get the sheet out.
  5. Powering the printer off and on takes forever. Seems to want to do all sorts of diagnostics on itself taking what seems like minutes. Not the 20 plus minutes during installation but still a long time.
  6. The help display requires some sort of software to be loaded on the computer. This printer comes with FOUR CDs! One for Mac OSx, one for Vista, one for 2000/xp, and one for readiris pro 11 on the Mac. Nothing for Linux or Ubuntu. Grrr.
  7. There are many options for direct digital filing but they overlooked the possibility you’d want to scan a pile of say invoices. So I have to stand next to the printer and wait for each page to be scanned before putting the next sheet in. sigh.
  8. It goes through ink too quickly. Despite the advertising claims it’s expensive to use for printing. A heavy duty laser printer is still needed. Not a big deal really.
  9. It did not want to send a PDF I was viewing with Adobe via the FAX machine. It just vanished. I’m probably doing something wrong but I have no idea what.
  10. The manual that comes with the printer. It’s so incomplete as to be almost useless. They somehow spread about a page worth of real material across almost 30 pages. Then to thicken the physical manual they write include the same 30 pages in other languages until the manual looks like it must contain something useful.
  11. Their technical support. I called asking each person I spoke with as I got passed up the chain whether it was ok to record the conversation. So they tried very hard to be good. However they were all woefully ignorant. It took me almost 50 minutes to get an answer that would take a competent support group only seconds. (Maybe I’ll upload the recording.) I do not want to ever call them again. Oh, and their final answer was they had no idea how to do it with Linux. Only with the Macintosh or Windows operating system. The sad part was that it had nothing to do with Linux they were just too ignorant. It’s not their fault actually. It’s the system. I imagine as they learn more they get promoted to positions that would need their talents more.
  12. When the paper gets low pages start printing out strangely. Like starting half way down on a page. Using multiple pages to print something that should fit on a single page, etc.. Not a big deal as long as you keep the paper tray more than half full.
  13. Fax confirmation settings. No where in the manual does it mention this setting. It’s one of those things you have to play with. That is go to the LCD panel and look at all the options. I would have done this sooner except for the fact that many of the options require a PC connected to the printer to work. Previously I had attemted to explore the options but got bogged down when it took forever to respond and then said I must install some software on a PC to view the entry. I don’t like waiting an eternity to be told I need a PC connected and so I’ve avoided the LCD panel ever since. Anyways the fax confirmations are lame. Instead of printing out say three quarters of the first page and then at the bottom showing the status in a few lines it just shows a few lines. There is nothing to visually correlate the fax confirmation to what was sent. So you could have successfully sent blank pages. Some confirmation! How can HP be so stupid?!
  14. The entire device will not function, even when trying to scan images to file, when a toner cartridge is missing. And when one cartridge is empty, even one that is not being used, all the functionality requiring the printer is turned off. In other words, no black and white functionality is available when a color toner cartridge is empty! Even scanning images to the disk is hampered with warning messages you must clear every few seconds.
  15. HP makes every effort to get you to buy their cartridges. They even have popups with the cartridge needed and a form just waiting to be clicked on so that you can buy their cartridges. However their cartridges are extremely expensive. You can the toner cartridges from www.4inkjets.com at 80% off HP prices if you buy three or more of each cartridge. After my experience today with the yellow ink cartridge I bought an extra cartridge for each color from the local shop which is much much cheaper than HP and then ordered in quantity at even cheaper prices from 4InkJets.com above. Buying this way may match the price of laser printing. Maybe much cheaper when you consider the electricity saved.
  16. Today the printer decided it does not know how to do double sided printing. (Which is my default and I use double sided extensively.) I’ve now powered it off in the hopes that when I power it back on it will remember how… Sigh.
  17. Either Ubuntu or perhaps the L7780 does not know how to handle printing two copies of a single sided paper when the double sided feature is default. Instead of printing two pages it prints the first copy on the first side and the second copy on the back side. To get around this you have to manually print the document twice.
  18. This post continues at:

    Ubuntu & The HP Officejet Pro L7780 All-in-One, REVISITED

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