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My Printer DOSed Me

January 19, 2007

I’ve got an Epson R340 photo printer as my home printer. Its driver has been complaining about low ink (magenta) for some time now, but since 99% of my printing is black and white (and the toner costs almost half what the printer does), I’ve put off getting the replacement cartridges.

This morning, I paid the price for my procrastination. While trying to print a simple B&W text document, the printer griped that “light magenta” was out, and it should be replaced before proceeding. There was NO WAY to ignore this alert and continue to print using just the black toner. My previous printers would just silently run out of that color and blissfully continue printing. Today’s printers seemingly have become too “smart”, and won’t let you continue regardless of whether the issue affects you.

While digging around trying to find if there’s a valid reason for this, or just plain stupid design, I found this FAQ entry:

Q: The color ink cartridge is expended even though I print in black only. Why does this happen?
A: To keep the print head clear, the printer uses a small amount of ink from all the cartridges whenever it prints and to keep the print head primed. Even if you select Black Only, some color ink is still being used.

Swell. So I’m guessing the printer goes through a quick cleaning cycle at each power-up, and won’t let you proceed for fear of clogged print heads later?

Of course there was no FAQ entry on what percentage of this most costly fluid is wasted by the cleaning process over the lifetime of a typical cartridge. I’m guessing its cheaper to pay the electricity bill of leaving the printer on 24/7 just to avoid the wasted ink at the beginning of each power-up.

I miss my [predictable, reliable, trustworthy] dot matrix…

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From → Gadgets

5 Comments
  1. Will permalink

    You’d still be using your trusty dremel to cut plywood too if we didn’t slap you upside the head. Geez, if you want a trusty b&w only printer, get a cheap laser printer, and punt the color printer.
    I’ve found you can’t get both – almost all color printers do something to keep the print heads clean. Leaving on an epson seems to work ok, but they still will occasionally go through cleaning cycles or just use a “little” bit of ink every time.

  2. I should have *stuck* with the dremel rather than getting the jigsaw as my first power saw. Its too specialized. And yes, I understand the ink usage thing, but why should my printer LOCK ME OUT just because it ran out of ink. If I want to run the risk of a clogged printer head, let me make the choice.

  3. maybe running the thing under a different driver would work

  4. jedm permalink

    My Brother printer sucked a new ink cartridge dry during a hour-long self cleaning binge. I’m just curious where all the ink went.
    I am also always amazed how all my ink cartridges run dry at the exact same time. Talk about a racket!

  5. i’ve dissembled a couple old printers for the stepper motors and stuff- they’ve all got a little sponge thats used for the heads to dump their ink into during cleaning.

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