Our Top Fixes of 2012: #1 – Epson, We Have a Problem!
And the winner is…
It might appear as cheating that we decided to pick the case of the infamous Epson Stylus D68, which we already wrote about back in December as our symbolic top fix so far. In short, it’s the story of a printer which stopped functioning all of a sudden, leaving the owner with nothing more than 2 blinking lights. According to Epson, the problem was that the ink pads of the printer had “reached the end of their usable life and that your printer will no longer work until it is serviced”. Basically Epson has a counter of the number of print-outs produced by a printer, and once a predefined number is reached, the company recommends (actually more than recommends!) that the printer is substituted, or that, in case of expensive high-end printers, the ink pads are substituted. As our volunteer repairer John pointed out, Epson produced its own software utility to reset the counter. However it doesn’t recommend users should use it or even try substituting the ink pads: “Epson does not recommend ink pad replacement by users without technical training or resetting the Ink Pad Counter without replacing the ink pads.” This is a typical case of a company trying to expand its control over the way consumers use a product they have bought, so we had to do something about it. We had heard about a solution through the highly recommended documentary The Lightbulb Conspiracy: a free Russian software called SSC, able to easily reset ink pad counter and to perform other useful maintenance tasks.
We have chosen this tweak as our favourite fix so far for a variety of reasons. Printers have proven to be extremely popular at our events – we did not expect this when we started, but we have routinely repaired, cleaned, “restarted” on average at least one printer per each event. Printers are interesting not only because they are fragile, but also for the business models that manufacturers try to impose on consumers. Most users know about attempts by manufacturers to force consumers to only use “branded” ink, by including chips in each cartridge (that alone, a cause of concern: why should an ink cartridge contain a chip?!). Other tricks practiced by manufacturers are more subtle: for example, I recently found out that my HP Officejet 6500 printer officially does not allow me to print only using black ink on a Mac: even if I select “print in black & white”, the printer will use ink from all colours to make black ink. The reason? To avoid spoiling the ink pads and the colour cartridges to dry out. All of this makes no sense, and there are alternatives we need to explore, promote, and demand from manufacturers. Especially when a “fix” only depends on an incremental improvement of a product’s firmware, which could often improve the performance and the environmental credentials of an existing device – a much more “sustainable”, tangible prospect than dreaming about the sustainability of future products, whether mobiles, tablets or printers.