Sunday, September 12, 2010

Irony drips...

Because of the sorts of things I do on Linux, mostly work related to software development, I have little need ever to print there. For years I've relegated printing, something I do very little of anyway, to whatever box happened to be my primary Windoz computer host. (I always keep a Windoz box alive for my personal use in order to use software I like that won't run on Linux such as PaintShop Pro 7 even though I know that there are solutions to doing that from Linux too.)

Since I acquired a new Windows 7 Professional 64-bit platform late last year, printing has been a largely unworkable solution. At first, in fact, it seemed to work perfectly well, but about the time I lost my motherboard and replaced it, then found I had to reinstall from scratch, it stopped working. While I didn't detect any anomaly during re-installation and resurrection of my data that I had carefully backed up for the most part, nevertheless, printing was thereafter very hit-and-miss. In fact, I had only printed one or two pages just to try things out, so I don't know for certain that it ever worked permanently and well.

How the mighty one has fallen!
Usually, things went like this: Plug my Hewlett-Packard 5550 into a USB port, note that Windows loaded the driver, then print something. Early on, this often worked the first time only to stop working the next time I tried to print. In frustration, and because my office has been in an awkward flux since the first of the year, I'd unplug the USB cable and forget about it for a week or two or three. However, very soon, it would stop working at all.

Of late, I've pulled my hair out over this printer and my Windows box no longer able even to get them to work together a single, initial time. Incidentally, I can't get this box to support my built-in multi-card reader either, nor my external reader. And Google tells me I am not alone by far in my observation: Windows 7 doesn't reliably support printers or card readers.

Decidedly, not only does Windows have its usual troubles with inconsistent interfaces, but since the last version of Windows that worked (XP) in true plug-and-play fashion, its utility has sunk very low indeed.

I mean I'll grant you that I'm an idiot, but so's your grandmother. And yet, until Windows Vista, even she could plug in her new printer or card reader and immediately get a working peripheral with no need to Google to find out how to overcome a lack of support for such common devices. It just worked. It no longer does.

So, that irony I was speaking about...
I grew up under the UNIX operating system in my early career. Configuring a system was a pretty hard thing to do. Even after years getting used to the ease of Linux in doing most things, I continue to be surprised by it. Such was the case this morning.

I really needed to print out a recipe in order easily to take notes on it later today because I'm going to present this recipe to a formal gathering in a local theater. I'm making this dish today. Annoyed at the prospect of spending fruitless hours messing about with getting my printer working on Windows 7, I decided I might be ahead learning to get it running on Linux.

From my UNIX years, I have a knee-jerk expectation that it's not going to be straight-forward, so I cast around up front on the web for some help. Not finding very recent articles on how to get it running (reading out-of-date articles on Linux can be an exercise in frustration as the myriad distros have progressed very rapidly), I gave up and just plugged the #$*@ thing in. A few seconds later, a notice popped up on my desktop announcing my printer by (accurate) name and claiming that it was set up and ready to go. I'm not one to be fooled by such a cheap trick, so I put it to the test, brought my recipe up in Firefox, then printed it. What to my wond'ring, but grateful eyes...

Of course, this dripping irony as I call it is of my own making: I should henceforth believe that Linux can indeed do everything. And, I should turn my back on Windows forever. But I won't. I will still keep my foot in the door out of some sense of misguided interest. And I will continue to snipe and complain about Windows as it falls from utility.

Hehehe, now I'm going to attach my card reader someday soon—another peripheral I've always and only consumed from Windows.

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