Wednesday, April 04, 2007

New Printer = Comparison of OS'es

Today I finally managed to have enough money scraped together to go out and purchase a new printer for my home office. For a couple years now, I have relied on an HP6110 all-in-one to handle my businesses printing chores (some light copying and moderate scanning as well). The biggest problem is that there is something about this model that HP screwed up that makes it run really slow. I thought it was just me, especially since I run Linux on the main PC that is connected to it. However, last fall I was attending some CPA training on paperless office and document management technologies and the instructor mentioned that he has the same problem.

Anyway, it has been a reasonably good printer, but when I needed to really get an important print job done, it was always a real bear to manage it. E.g., last week I was trying to print a 94 page document. I would have preferred to have had it duplexed, but that wasn't going to happen. The other problem is that I am apparently increasing my production of documents as it seems I am constantly having to put new print cartridges in the thing.

So for a while I've had my eye on an HP Color LaserJet 2605dn. Office Depot has had them at a price of $399. Regularly it is $499, but they have been consistently offering a $100 rebate. It looks like a good buy from all the research I've done. Reasonably fast 10 ppm in color (faster would be nicer!), duplex, and network ready. Having it network ready would be especially nice as I was constantly switching the 6110 between a USB connection with the Linux PC and a D-Link wireless print server that I used to access it with the laptop I use in my business. That has been giving me a headache lately as it apparently does not like WPA encryption on the wireless network.

Well, this past weekend, I noted in the Office Max circular that they had them for only $374 with a $125 instant rebate (normally they were matching the $100 rebate at Office Depot). So, the time for the purchase seemed right.

Picked it up earlier today and got it all hooked up this evening (well, yesterday evening now as I write this). Now came the interesting part - getting it set up on all the various and sundry PC's. First up was my main desktop running SuSE Linux 10.2. Used the equivalent of the "Add printer" wizard to add it to the system. I didn't time it, but I would guess it was less than 5 minutes, mostly spent answering questions about the type of printer. I say that as I know I started at about 10 minutes before 8 p.m. and I had it installed, ran a couple test jobs, and was downstairs in time to start watching American Idol at 8:00. As you can see, a very fast and efficient process with Linux to have this printer up and running.

Next up was my wife's PC running Windows XP Home. I suppose Windows' "Add printer" wizard could have done it without the install CD, but I used it anyway as that's how the HP directions said to do it. Anyway, that turned into a 30 minute ordeal to get the printer installed. Took about 250MB of space, several clicks to let the software communicate through the firewall, had to disable the BlackIce firewall (but not the CA firewall), and a reboot. Yes, you read that right - a reboot just to install a printer. To their credit, the HP installer did indicate it would be at least a 20 minute install. Pretty stunning comparison between the two if you ask me.

Anyway, I was going to do the install on my work laptop while I continued to do some client work in QuickBooks. After all, Windows is supposed to be a multi-tasking system, right? Can let it do one thing (like install a printer driver) while doing something else (like working). But fearing the install might require a reboot, I had to hold off doing the install until I completed the client work and got to a point where a reboot would be acceptable.

As I'm writing, it is installing on the laptop. It is running Windows XP Pro. No pop-ups about firewalls even though I run the CA package on the laptop as well. Hmm, 15 minutes and it is still working. YIKES! There it is - "You must restart your computer to continue with this installation." This ought to be interesting as the CA security suite has been hosed lately and I have trouble shutting down. Can't figure out whether it is the SpyWare component or what. I know throughout the day I'll get messages about it failing to perform an update and I'll frequently find several instances of ASpyWareUpdater.exe running. Anyway, Windows hangs on some file in the temp folder. Of course, you can't resize the "End Program" dialog box to see what particular file it is that has things hosed (thanks MS). Yep, ending the ASpyWareUpdater.exe process let's me get it restarting.

While I wait for the reboot, I'll mention that earlier I did a test run from the Linux PC. Using the 94 page document I mentioned earlier (an OpenOffice.org text document with lots of graphics), I sent it over to the LaserJet as a color, duplex job. It was completed in 10 minutes. So, 9.4 ppm with moderately heavy graphics and duplexed. The document looks great and I'd say that was pretty good throughput (very close to advertised rate).

OK, the test page printed alright. Total elapsed time - 23 minutes.

The finally tally shows the Linux install was about a 5 minute process with no reboots and I was off to the races in actually using my new printer. Meanwhile, the MS Windows computers required heavy management of the install process, a reboot!, lots of disk space, and about 5 times as much time. Is it any wonder I much prefer my Linux PC to anything else and recommend Linux to family, friends, and anyone who will listen to me?

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