Getting my ESP

It all started with me getting dissatisfied with my Hewlett Packard Officejet printers. I’ve had a 5510 for a long while, it Faxes, Scans, Prints. I also have a newer Officejet C4280 in the family room. Both all-in-one printers work fine hardware wise. It’s just that the replacement HP ink cartridges cost a bit. Yes, I hear a chorus of silent “ayes” from you as well, regardless of any brand you own.

It has often been said that inkjet printers and the ink cartridge replacements are like razors and razorblades – brands are quite happy to sell you a cheap razor, they make money on the blades. Now, some time ago, Kodak decided to challenge that idea. They had escapee scientists from Hewlett Packard, lead by an escapee head honcho, also from Hech Pee. Kodak derived most of their income from selling photographic film and paper – but the film business went north (well they did close that factory in Coburg) so the Kodak teams were keen to make up for lost income. When Kodak first launched their own inkjet printer line with their own special recipe pigment ink (as opposed to dye based ink), their printers cost a bit even though their ink was typically half the price of competitors’ product. Here was an interesting phenomena, how were they going to grab market share where the market appeared to dictate that the up front printer cost should be cheap? HP sure weren’t taking it lying down.

Well, it’s taken Kodak a few iterations and yes, they’ve given in to the crowd. Their Kodak ESP-3 printer is now selling for less than AUD 60. And the ink is still quite inexpensive.

It takes quite a bit to tempt me away from my HPs – for home use, I’ve used HP, Epson, Canon – the major players. But I felt the time was now right to try the ESP-3, particularly since I was getting quite annoyed at the Scanning / Management software of my HP 5510 – you see the software was designed circa Internet Explorer 6, using components of it to render the screens. Really silly move – since we all know Microsoft has to lobotomise Internet Explorer vigorously. First, to protect your computer from IE vulnerabilities. Second to make a show of moving from a anarchic program towards an embrace and extend model of the W3C’s standards for the web. So, for an old printer that HP isn’t earning any more money one, HP will not resolve software issues now that Internet Explorer is up to Version 8 with Service Packs in between.

I’ve heard of and seen hoopla over unboxing a Mac. I thought the ESP-3 would at least show it’s box.

Set up was quite easy – their “Start Here” manual was brief, to the point and in English, English. The print was clear, the pictures big. Only a slight issue – on page 6, after giving excellent instructions, it assumed that the owner had got it wrong and not installed the print head correctly.

Well, things went really well until I attempted to install the AiO management software and printer driver. Don’t you hate it when things like that happen? I tried the supplied CD. The installation program went on for a while until I got this delicious error dialog.

If you can’t read it, it says Setup failed with Error Code: 1327x17x2951053040x

That’s right. Some programmer’s attempt at humour. If the program hits an error, neglect to send a warm and fuzzy error message like “Doh!” but impress the customer with a cryptic. Error Number, I mean. At least there’s a hyperlink. Which, I followed, taking me to the Easyshare program FAQ article, telling me to download the “Clear Utility”. But which one? The AiO setup program’s Clear Utility or the Kodak Easyshare program’s Clear Utility? They’re two separate programs – the AiO management program manages the printer and the Easyshare program is a Kodak warm and fuzzy program that manages photos and Kodak cameras – you know, I distinctly unticked the option to install Easyshare. Not good. Well, downloaded both “Clear” programs which presumably rid the computer of left over registry entries and .dlls. Rebooted. Same result. Or rather, no result.

Ok, how about suspecting that these CD programs are too old and getting a newer one from the Kodak website. I did that. Went to the Downloads webpage for the ESP-3 and saw that the newer, updated installation program is all of a jaw dropping 250Mb. Huh? Just to manage the printer and scanner? Well, not actually, there’s a whole kitchen sink of functions to make photo albums and goodies that mums and dads might want. And that Easyshare, no doubt. Take a deep breath, hit the download button. It went quick, the download. Too quick. Turns out that the download is only 1.7Mb. It’s not the full 250Mb. The download is a bootstrap downloader – it’s a stub that gets the rest. Oh. Not very good. What happens if I want to install the software on more than one home PC? Since the bootstrap downloader grabs 250Mb each PC and keeps it “don’t know where”, for three PCs, I will now have downloaded 750Mb. Flashes of internet quota come across my eyes.

Anyway, it all came to nought initially. The Stub Downloader would download and install “Bonjour” (eh? where did Apple come French on Kodak?), then “Pre-Requisite Components”, then the obscurely named KSDIP and then, it would announce that I had aborted the process. Yes, poor me, with hands off the keyboard and mouse. Hurt by the accusation and taken aback, I tried several times again. (How many Mb had the Downloader now repeated without success?).

Frustrated, I went to the Kodak AiO support website – and noticed that they have an online 24×7 (exceptions may apply) chat. Guess what. An exception applied. Their customer reps must have been busy and queued because all I could do was to send a good old fashioned email to them.

Later on, I found out why the software wasn’t installing. It was my particular PC – this one has a long standing problem where Windows thinks there is a drive Y: (there used to be) and wants to step on it when an installation program runs. Once I remembered this, I knew how to resolve the issue and things went well. Except, the installation software thinks I’ve got American Letter sized paper even though I do tell it in several places that we use A4. And it also thinks I am Uni – I figured out later, how to tell it that the printer should be Bi.

So, it did end well. Would have been less twisted and tortuous though, if the Kodak programmers could actually bother to write out more informative error dialogs. I think I learnt one thing though – ESP stands for Easy Share Pri
nter – how’s that for branding
?

Lovely day I had, how was yours?

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2 Responses to “Getting my ESP”

  1. Dan Woods

    AiO printers always come with ridiculous amounts of bloatware.
    All modern OS’s (Windows 98+, Mac OS X 10.1+ and any version of Linux from the last 10 years) come with perfectly good infrastructure for running scanners, printers and fax modems. Bleeding Edge OS’s like Snow Leopard and Windows 7 integrate multi-purpose logical devices into one interface.
    Drivers that take advantage of these infrastructures have been compact, and the APIs have been well documented. ZeroConf and SMB make accessing these devices over a network childs play.
    Software to manipulate and manage scanned images an send faxes have also been integrated into the OSs for years, and even the OS file manager can act as a manager of scanned images.
    Unfortunately, Printer manufacturers insist on bundling 100s of MB of useless software (HP Director, Canon EasyShare, etc) along with the drivers, or using proprietary protocols like IJNP and BJNP to access these devices of the network.
    Snow Leopard and Windows 7 work fantastic with my Canon MX700 when plugged in via USB; Snow Leopard even has native support for the Network Scanning feature using Bonjour, but Canon are yet to come to the party with IJNP and BJNP transports for 64-bit Windows or Snow Leopard.
    I’m sure the transport drivers are ready somewhere in Canon’s R&D labs, but because their Customer Manipulation Bloatware isn’t yet 64-bit compatible, they are refusing support for these OSs. No wonder Vista failed due to lack of drivers and 64-bit Windows is a lame duck.
    Hopefully customers demand for Device Stage support in Windows 7 will drag these companies Kicking and Screaming into the 21st century, and encourage them to abandon TWAIN drivers in favour of WIA and SANE.

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  2. Ananda Sim

    Thanks for the info, Dan. I think the bloatware is not so much a technical approach but a commercial approach. Each of these companies has collateral product to sell – more paper, printing facilities, albums, other products. So they dump lots and lots of non related stuff onto just a scanner interface and a printer driver. In all honesty, they should do a better job offering separate modules. A stub web downloader for those who prefer it, a standalone full download if you want. Separate printer driver and separate scanner driver for those who only want minimal functionality.

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