Saturday 31 May 2014

Paper not feeding on HP 1220c A3 Inkjet Printer

We do most of our printing on a highly reliable Oki LED printer C5800 colour printer. We've had this for several years  and it rarely jams or gives us any problems even with the double sided printing. You just need to change the toner cartridges occasionally and once in a blue moon the CMYK drums. It sits alone in a store room attached by LAN and always works.We also have a venerable old HP 1220C A3 Inkjet Printer that we use on the odd occasion, though since the office move this time last year it's been shelfware. 

This week though we had the need to print on A3 paper in colour so I dug out the HP1220C and plugged it by USB into our workhorse office PC and fired it up. The paper feed has always been a bit flaky but we coaxed it to accept paper through the manual feed. We discovered the HP original cartridges had dried up, no great surprise there as we'd not used the  beast in a long while. Nothing to fear as we had an unused spare set of new HP cartridges in the store cupboard and we whacked those into the machine. The black ink worked well and the colour was okay if we lived in a magenta only world. No amount of cartridge cleaning would persuade the new cartridges (Type 78) to print in full colour. By now time was running short and I could not wait for a next day delivery of new ink cartridges. We had to drive 20 miles round trip to the local PC World to buy some more. PCW only sold a combined pack of 45 and 78 Cartridges for a shocking £59! We bit the bullet and paid the ransom. Back at the office we hand fed the paper into the printer and coaxed it to produce 20 copies of an A3 document. If you take into account the 6 cartridges we worked through and fuel costs, the printing cost was £8.00 per page excluding any man hour costs.

As a consequence, we now have a new Epson A3 duplex inkjet printer on order for £200. The old HP 1220C will go to the car boot sale.

However to get back to the title of this post I had some free time this weekend and was determined not to be bested by the HP printer. I knew nothing was broken, other than the original poor design, in the printer. It was just a matter of cleaning the right part to remove paper clay from feed rollers. Of course the HP is not constructed for simple maintenance by office staff. Getting to the relevant feed rollers was quite difficult, but I eventually prevailed. If you look into the paper "tray" slot into the depths of the machine you can see a dark grey rubber feed roller on the right hand side. A torch help to see it. Using a nylon kitchen scourer pad, slightly moistened, on the end of a steel ruler I was able to clean the roller. You cause the printer to make a few page feeds while pressing the kitchen scourer against the roller using pressure from the ruler. It made some grinding noises, but did not pull the scourer into the works.

Since then the paper feed has worked perfectly!

Edit: 4th June 2014: - I spoke too soon, the HP 1220C decided to feed multiple sheets at the same time from the paper tray. It has to go! The Epson Workforce WF-7110DTW arrived the day after I ordered it on-line from Printerland. So far I'm very impressed. It has many modern features, such as remote printing which make the purchase well worthwhile.

Monday 19 May 2014

Chromebook Management

I'm writing this blog entry using our new Acer 720 Chromebook. It has greatly exceeded my expectations. Part of the reason for that is Google's Chromebook Management Console. We'd mentioned in a previous blog we were surprised by the Acer C720.

We are investigating the Acer notebook computer as a device to provide easy web browsing facilities for guests renting our holiday home in Wirksworth Derbyshire in England. Used in conjunction with the Management Console it seems the Acer 720 notebook computer will meet our needs.

These are the relevant features:
  • It is inexpensive compared to Microsoft Windows laptops;
  • It is fast and responsive to most usage;
  • We can remotely control who has access to the device;
  • We can remotely control what software is used on the device by user identity or group;
  • It offers browsing, email, word processing, spreadsheets, and Internet phone;
  • We can control what is stored on the device;
  • Data security is strong;
  • We can remotely control the browser homepage;
  • The software is automatically updated;
  • It has a keyboard;
  • It has a long battery life;
  • It boots up in less than 10 seconds;
  • We can centrally pre-load WiFi service Id's and passwords.
The Chromebook doesn't run Microsoft Windows software, but for most of our purposes we don't need it in the situation we are considering. There are solutions on the Chromebook system which allow the user to gain remote access to Windows PCs and Servers, but for the moment we are not looking into those.

We received notification from Google that the Management Console had been activated. Their email contained a link to some "get you started" instructions. We had a working system in place within 30 minutes. Supplementary information was easily on hand to answer any questions we had during the configuration process.

The mouse pad on the Acer uses some gestures we'd not encountered before, but they were easily mastered. While the mouse pad is fairly easy to use, my personal preference would be to plug in a mouse via the USB port if I was running a long session at a desk. For general office applications the screen resolution is more than adequate.

It is possible to play games and watch videos on the device, but this type of use is not really its forte. HD video playback was jerky, though the BBC Iplayer was fine. Youtube videos displayed okay.

Sunday 18 May 2014

Chromebook surprise

Like many people I've taken a quick look at the Chromebook and dismissed it as a nice idea, but unlikely to gain wide acceptance. However necessity is changing my mind. As mentioned in an earlier post, we've recently started a sideline business of holiday homes. I want to be able to offer guests the facility of a computer to enable web browsing if they've not brought their own device with them. Providing WiFi service is now a ubiquitous part of the service for a UK holiday home rental.

For tidiness I've decided the device should be a laptop computer or a notebook. A tablet computer is a possibility but some people are uncomfortable with a device which does not have it's own keyboard. The second factor in the decision process is the ability to control what data and programmes are installed on the device. We need to be able to reset the computer at the end of each weekly rental to remove any data or programs which may have been installed.

We also need to be able to lock down the computer and prevent re-use in order to discourage theft of the devices. Coupled with this we need a low cost device in order to keep the rental fees and security deposits charged to clients low. In fact many of decision points are those faced by IT managers in the choice of devices for their mobile workforce.

However those running holiday homes are not in the business of running server farms and PC support teams to support PC's in the field. We can't afford the fees of contracting the devices' support to a third party company.

After quite a lot of research and a serendipitous webinar from Google/Citrix I decided to take a closer look at the Chromebook. What attracted me was Google's Chrome Management Console with Google Apps. The Citrix side of things will be useful for businesses who want to provide remote access to their existing Microsoft Windows applications, but is not relevant to my immediate requirement.

The Google Management Console provides a ready made solution to the control of a remote laptop rented to our holiday home clients. It is a cloud based service so there is no investment in servers or management software. Above all it is inexpensive, particularly when combined with a Chromebook device.

I have purchased an Acer C720 Chromebook for evaluation. The retail cost including VAT was £199. Google's Chrome Management Console is £90 per user, though at present I've taken advantage of a special offer of £30 per user. Google Apps works out at £3.50 per user per month and provides most of the data storage and software that an average casual user would require. All of the device Operating System and Application updates are automatic. Gmail includes anti-virus and very good spam filtering.

Let me clarify those figures: One-off cost £200 (ex-VAT); on-going monthly support cost £3.50 for an effective, attractive and working laptop device complete with application software and remote management.

At the moment I'm waiting for the Google licence to arrive and I'll start the trials in full. I've had an initial play with the Acer Chromebook and so far I'm impressed. The C720 is lightweight at 1.5 Kg and has a battery life of around 8 hours. In common with most Chromebooks it boots up in less than 10 seconds.

More news to follow in this Blog. Here's the experience of a large school using Chromebooks. The interesting comment in there was: "While cost savings can be made on the cost of the hardware alone, the majority of the cost savings originate from savings made from infrastructure and device management.

Edit: 16/5/2014 later in the day: Received the Management Console licence from Google. I followed the clear instructions and no have a remotely managed Chromebook. It is now locked down to named users.

Saturday 17 May 2014

Hey you get off of my cloud

What happens to your data if your "Cloud" fails?

Check out Backupify and cloudHQ as ways to protect your data from sudden loss.

Our side line business - Holiday home for rent

We have used some of our hard earned cash to buy a house in the beautiful  county Derbyshire which nestles in the centre of England. We have spent six months refurbishing the building which originates from 1905 in the town of Wirksworth. The town has history dating back to Roman times.

If you want to find out more follow this link. The place is available for rental by couples.

Thursday 8 May 2014

Is your Cloud data secure with a USA based company?

A report in Computer Weekly shows a USA based judge ordering Microsoft to reveal data help in an EU country. Microsoft's appeal was turned down.

The underlying question is whether your company should store any of its corporate data in a Cloud/Data Centre operated by a USA based corporation?  If so it likely to be exposed to any US Government official or lawyer wanting a peak at your data.