How to ruin a perfectly good Sunday with Windows Vista

How to ruin a perfectly good Sunday with Windows Vista

Summary: The HP J4580 Multi-Function Inkjet Printer, Scanner and Fax. The $99.

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The HP J4580 Multi-Function Inkjet Printer, Scanner and Fax. The $99.00 multifunction device that was the icing on the cake that ruined my Sunday.

I always know when my weekend is going to be ruined. It usually starts like this:

Wife: Jason?

Me: Yeah?

Wife: Mom just called, we need to go to their house on Sunday, she's having computer issues. She can't print, or log on to dad's laptop downstairs.

Me: Oh @#$%.

Some perspective is required -- about a year ago, I got my mother-in-law a new Lenovo ThinkPad. It was pre-loaded with Vista Home, and I have been steadily maintaining it with patches, Service Pack 1 and everything needed to keep it healthy. So I was surprised that suddenly, things had started to go south.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

It turned out that it was a hardware problem. Her printer, an older HP 932c, had finally decided to die -- rather, the inkjet head was gummed up with dried up ink and her ink cartridges, which were several years old, were also well beyond their expiration date. Rather than try to fix this unit and buy new supplies, which could easily equal a good portion of the cost of a new printer, I thought it was a good idea that we replace her printer. Mom is a real estate agent, and also has to scan and fax, so I thought it was a good idea if we also at the same time pulled her old Fax and legacy Canon scanner out of the mix, and get her running with a multifunction device (MFD).

I myself have had varying levels of success with MFDs. Between my last two companies that I have worked at, I've had two different Lexmark-manufactured units (One a Dell AIO and the other an actual Lexmark) and now I'm evaluating the Epson Workforce 600, which is their top of the line wireless MFD (which I'll talk about in a future post).

While examining my Father-in-law's PC, I sent my wife and my Mother-in-law to their neighborhood Staples, where they had a number of MFD units in stock. Our choice came down to a Lexmark with built-in wireless which would have been $125 after rebates or a $99 HP J4580. After a quick determination that they really didn't need the wireless capability, as it was going to be plugged directly into the laptop via USB, we went with the HP. The cheap in-store price without having to go thru the rebate hassle also seemed to seal the deal.

While the women were out of the house, I cautiously approached my Father-in-law's low-end Acer Aspire laptop. I had him order one of these about six months ago from COMPUSA.com, when it was onsale for under $450. His old Toshiba laptop, which was running Ubuntu 7.10 for about six months had died, and he needed an inexpensive and quick replacement. It was pre-loaded with Vista. I had decided that the time I didn't have the energy or the wherewithal to wipe the system out with Ubuntu again -- I just set him up with his GMail icon and a few minor tweaks and let him have it. Besides, all this 72-year old retired securities trader does with his PC besides email is use Scottrade to watch the market, use Picasa, and play fantasy football on the web.

In hindsight, this was a bad idea.

I log in only to find that the pre-loaded virus scanner, Norton Internet Security 2007, had expired. Apparently, a few months ago, when it prompted my father-in-law to renew his trial subscription, he decided that $59.00 was too much money.  He also apparently decided not to let Windows do any updates to his system. So it was now riddled with viruses and spyware, and in a completely unpatched state.

I then proceeded to clean out all the spyware, junk and viruses, by installing and running Advanced SystemCare 3 Free Editon, CCLeaner.com, Spybot Search & Destroy, un-installing the expired Norton and replacing it with Avast! Home Edition. Once the computer was verified clean, I accepted the Microsoft Updates which included Vista SP1 and a number of post-SP1 fixes. Total time investment to clean up the mess? We arrived at 1PM, it was now 5:30. Four and a half hours had now passed. I verify that mom can log into the box, and then proceed upstairs to hook up the new MFD on her Lenovo.

Generally speaking I like HP's printers and scanners -- they have solid inkjet technology and very good output quality. However, I have to say that after this last Sunday's experience, their software integration stack for the MFDs with Vista is awful. Bloated, buggy, and horrible.

Hooking up the printer itself was simple -- I unboxed it, pulled all the packing materials off, inserted the new cartridges, connected it up to the USB port with her old USB cable (the device doesn't come with one included) and powered it on. Vista recognized the device, and prompted me to insert the HP driver CD. I heard the characteristic "plonk" sound of the device being recognized, and Vista reported the hardware was working. I then installed all 500+ MB of HP's included MFD management software, which includes the scanning wizard, OCR, fax management, et cetera.

After about a half an hour of scripted software installs, I clicked on the HP Solution Center icon -- a few seconds later, I get a dialog box that tells me that "no HP devices have been detected, HP Solution Center will close now."

Huh? But Vista just told me the device was operational!

So I sent a manual test fax directly from the unit. Works. I checked Vista's printer configuration, the device is set as default printer. I send a test print and print out a few documents. No problem. But how do we scan if HP Solution Center is busted?

It then occured to me that the J4580 was probably TWAIN compatible. So what do I do? I install the Open Source GIMP For Windows, do an Acquire -> Scanner/Camera, pick the HP device, and perform a scan. Seconds later I have a high resolution image from mom's holiday calendar on her desktop.

Screw you, HP, and take your buggy software with you. Have a nice @#$%^ing day.

After instructing my Mother-in-law in how to perform scans with GIMP, I look at my watch, it's 7PM. I'm now starving and extremely punchy, having worked through the entire afternoon and the evening to get all this junk running. I check my BlackBerry, which is blinking wildly. My heart sinks -- someone at work needs me to stay up late and work on a Visio diagram of a VMWare environment for an important customer for Monday.

So much for going out for dinner with the in-laws. Chinese delivery at home, here I come.

Does my Sunday sound anything like one of yours? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Software, Hardware, Hewlett-Packard, Laptops, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Printers, Windows

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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262 comments
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  • I'm not a shill

    but I will say that I have had wonderful experiences with Canon hardware. I owned an ip6600D that lasted me many years, then I gave it to a friend and purchased an MP970. In both cases, using the vanilla flavored Windows Driver Installation wizard, then directing it to the folder on the CD with XP drivers (it had them for 98SE, 2000, Vista, and OSX as well), the printer, scanner, and card reader all came up under Printers, Imaging Devices, and Disk Drives in Device Manager respectively. Installation took about 90 seconds, and I could choose to install all bundled software, selected titles, or none at all. Additionally, the drivers also install color spaces for Photoshop which greatly add to the accuracy of the things that I print from Photoshop. While the individual ink vs. integrated tri-color cartridge debate will go on for eternity, the Canon 8 series cartridges have some of the lowest cost-per-mL of ink I've seen in recent memory. The Canon machines do cost more, but it is well worth it. While the HP machines are generally good ones, the drivers for them have, for many years, been unnecessarily large, required a lengthy install process, and in many cases have been the root of other issues with the system.

    As for the virus issue, two features of Avast that have been lifesavers are that it can be installed in safe mode (MSI installers and many installshield packages cannot), and upon installation you can schedule a boot-time scan, which will scan for and remove viruses before Windows loads. On a badly infected machine, I boot into safe mode w/networking, download/install/update avast, then reboot. Some machines have required passes with Spybot/Adaware thereafter, but in most cases Avast left the system clean enough to boot into normal mode and remove the rest. Also, when removing Symantec products, google the Norton Removal Tool instead of simply uninstalling. the NRT does a more thorough job of removing the Symantec crap, but I'd still recommend a registry scan thereafter to get rid of some of the tentacles still lying around.

    Joey
    voyager529
    • I have an MP600...

      ...same thing. It installed perfectly.

      I used to use Lexmark printers. Ugh.
      Sleeper Service
    • Why keep bashing Vista?

      I have a couple of Vista machines and so far no problem installing ANY peripheral. On one machine I have around 30 printers installed including 3 or 4 multifunction machines. Though I did once have trouble finding a printer connected to a networked XP machine. I suggest that you blame HP, read the instructions, don't leave your in-laws without support for 12 months and especially don't blame Vista for every little problem you have.

      PS: Meant to post this further down the blog, sorry - but on reflection this doesn't seem such a bad place for it!
      jonc2011
      • blame where blame is due

        True - the HP mess should be blamed FULLY on HP. That's not a vista issue... And I think he DID put the blame on HP for that part...

        However: there is a bigger issue. Vista should COME WITH a replaceable AV solution out of the box. It comes with a web browser, firewall, and media player, WHY NOT include AV? Frankly, it's needed. Linux even comes with AV software that mainly protects other windows machines! Come on MS - after all these years of malware, it's time to add this VITAL bit of security which will MASSIVELY reduce the botnets out there. Basic AV / spyware protection needs to be included with windows.
        waltmaine
        • Be careful what you ask for.

          You might get it. Isn't demands like this the reason we are stuck with Word, IE, Outlook, ad nauseum? they got inculded as "free" applications and the good ones that worked went out of business.
          zclayton2
        • What!...

          Are you kidding me? If someone isn't smart enough to put virus protection on a computer, then they deserve every virus they get.

          There are dozens of good AV products on the market, I don't want Microsoft or anyone else forcing one on me. Let me pick my own!
          Bob_BLC
          • WTF?

            I walked away from ZDnet a few years ago and returned only last year. Now I see the title of this article suggesting that your day was ruined by Vista when it fact; it wasn't. Simply put...Tech bloggers are full of it.
            NPGMBR
      • VISTA

        Wait until the day you log in and Vista says you have no rights to access any peripheral attached to your PC. What fun when you cannot use your DVD player because even as an administrator Vista says you do not have the rights to access it! You no longer can plug in cameras, USB devices or access anything except your hard drive because you no longer have rights for anything. NO resolution so far on any forum or blog so you either have to pony up a $100 to Microsoft to fix this problem because you were dumb enough to think you were smarter than Vista.
        schapman@...
        • re: VISTA

          [i]Wait until the day you log in and Vista says you have no rights to access any peripheral attached to your PC. What fun when you cannot use your DVD player because even as an administrator Vista says you do not have the rights to access it! You no longer can plug in cameras, USB devices or access anything except your hard drive because you no longer have rights for anything.[/i]

          Um... did your PC happen to tell you that your copy of Vista was invalid or something?

          We'd need a little more info to help you.
          Badgered
        • I can help you out with that...

          There's this little thing called activating windows, it works wonders you know. It's been included with all versions of windows and good job it has been too. You may need to cough up some dough, but maybe you should of thought of activating it earlier, or actually buying the thing. I did get that, but i downloaded a trial. What did I do? I went out and bought it, problem solved.
          07palman@...
      • Vista bashing

        Vista is a good operating system and I really don't understand all the complaints. I have had three printers hooked up to Vista with no problems. My Canon MP610 works like a charm and was easy to install.
        Have a Merry Christmas.
        ratfret
    • HP printers suck

      Or more accurately, their drivers and programs really
      suck. I've had problems with all the HP printers I've
      used.

      Canon for imaging!
      superhobo
      • Actually it's Canon MFDs that suck!

        First, I was a diehard Canon fan and have purchased many Canon printers and MFDs over the years. However, I've had two Canon multi-function devices that crapped out on me shortly after the warranty expired. This compared to the still functioning BJC 4550 that I bought in 1996. I complained to Canon but was basically told to take a hike. So, a year ago I purchased an HP C7180. Hardware-wise, so far so good but the story about a ruined Sunday afternoon rang true with me. The Vista drivers for this MFD are a real joke. I installed the driver on my HP notebook which connects wirelessly to my network. Not only did the driver not work it also screwed up the network connection. Even after uninstalling the driver I still can't copy files across the network. I tried everything in Vista to get the connection functioning again, no dice. I'll probably have to do a system restore on the notebook but I don't have a Sunday afternoon to waste.....
        simul8guy
    • Or.....

      "As for the virus issue, two features of Avast that have been lifesavers are that it can be installed in safe mode (MSI installers and many installshield packages cannot), and upon installation you can schedule a boot-time scan, which will scan for and remove viruses before Windows loads. On a badly infected machine, I boot into safe mode w/networking, download/install/update avast, then reboot. Some machines have required passes with Spybot/Adaware thereafter, but in most cases Avast left the system clean enough to boot into normal mode and remove the rest. Also, when removing Symantec products, google the Norton Removal Tool instead of simply uninstalling. the NRT does a more thorough job of removing the Symantec crap, but I'd still recommend a registry scan thereafter to get rid of some of the tentacles still lying around."

      Or, you could just use Linux (linuxmint.com), not install any virus protection, get no virus infections. and just relax and enjoy using the coumputer.
      Joe.Smetona
    • Malware removal tools

      I prefer the "load and go" MWAV scanner from MWTI.NET, for cleaning out viruses, and follow up with Malwarebytes, both of which run nicely in safe mode.

      I used to use Spybot and Ad-Aware years ago, but find they take a long while and don't catch everything.

      If there's anything still remaining after the MWAV/Malwarebytes cocktail, then SuperAntiSpyware will generally finish the job, with Hijack This (Now from Trend Micro), to clean out stubborn BHOs. Frankly an OS reload is faster in most cases, but leaves you with having to patch all over again, and reinstall all applications.
      fireyouritguys
      • Sounds like a lot of effort.

        If you switch to Linux (linux Mint 6, linuxmint.com). all that work and worry disappears. You would enjoy using the computer a lot more.
        Joe.Smetona
  • Sounds more like

    ruining your day with HP then Vista, but I suppose this will get you more page hits...

    A good place to start is the firewall. My HP all-in-one (I don't know the model off hand) wouldn't scan until I config'ed the firewall to allow access.

    Which is exactly how it should work.
    mdemuth
    • exactly

      It's a bad day with HP, which happens to be the only problem I've ever had with Vista - 3rd party drivers.

      As for your Pops, there's no way he's getting that much spyware and virii from Scottrade and fantasy football. Maybe you need a parental filter?
      coffeeshark
      • ftw!

        "As for your Pops, there's no way he's getting that much spyware and virii from Scottrade and fantasy football. Maybe you need a parental filter?"
        eggmanbubbagee@...
        • lol!!

          Instead of NetNanny we need ParentPatrol and SeniorSpy!!!
          Pembo