3 min read

Searching for good printers

The printer market is exciting to no one except those in need of a new machine

Have you noticed that nobody writes about printers anymore? We mean technology writers. It seems like everybody’s always writing about cell phones or PDAs or digital cameras. That stuff’s OK once in a while, but all the time? Face it: We need printers.

This is a lead-in to our going out last week and buying a new printer. We bought an Okidata C5800 color laser that can print both sides of a sheet of paper at the same time. We paid $800. “Smart buy,” the clerk said, and he wasn’t being sarcastic.

We had to buy one because Joy was printing the second edition of her cookbook for a local woman’s club and wanted to be able to print on both sides of the paper. That’s called duplex printing.

We had been using a Magicolor 2300W from Konica Minolta and reinserting printed pages to print on the other side. It was a really good printer, but after a while it started putting a smudge on every page.

In this way we learned you shouldn’t run printed pages through a laser printer a second time. Sooner or later you’re going to develop a smudge on the fuser assembly and have to buy a new one. It will cost as much as buying a new printer.

Over the years, we’ve tried just about every brand and type of printer made, including many that aren’t made anymore. The best ones have been from Konica and Okidata.

This gives Bob an opportunity to tell his Okidata printer story. It goes like this: Years ago, Bob had this huge, heavy Okidata dot matrix printer, and he accidentally pushed it off the edge of the desk. It hit the floor and bounced and then went bumpity-bump down a long flight of stairs. He brought it back up and plugged it in, and everything worked fine, as if nothing had happened.

Weight could be a significant factor in Okidata printers. This new color laser printer weighs about 57 pounds, which is 10 pounds heavier than the other color lasers we’ve used. Very heavy duty. It prints so fast that we were waiting a few seconds for a printout when Bob noticed it was already out.

Build your own keyboard

The DX1 keyboard from Ergodex lets you put up to 25 keys wherever you want them.

You start with a smooth pad, measuring 9.4-by-11 inches, that’s sensitive to radio frequencies. The 25 keys come with tiny built-in transmitters. They can be mapped for specific functions or macros and positioned anywhere on the board that seems best for the way you use them. Gamers, engineers and stock or commodity traders, who often perform the same actions over and over, would likely be the ideal users here.

Once positioned on the board, the keys stick there, but they can be released and moved to a new location with a slight twist. You can actually hold a key a little distance above the board, cupped in your hand, and it will still function.

The Ergodex software can also recognize program changes. So if you start using Photoshop, the keys will immediately be ready to execute functions and macros you set up for Photoshop.

This is an interesting device and can probably be put to a lot more uses than we can think of.

Whence goes the fretful porpentine?

We went to Clusty.com and found a new feature called “Search Shakespeare.”

Clusty is just about our favorite search engine because it clusters the hits into categories. But that’s beside the point right now because we couldn’t resist searching for the “fretful porpentine.” This is a phrase that pops up once in a while in the “Bertie and Jeeves” stories by P.G. Wodehouse.

The two words and surrounding text came up immediately and turned out to be from a speech by the Ghost in “Hamlet.” Shakespeare undoubtedly meant “porcupine,” not “porpentine,” but spelling was loose back then.

The secret code

OpenDNS.com gives you a free alternative to your Internet service provider during a DNS outage.

“DNS” stands for Domain Name System, and that’s basically the phone book for the Internet. When you type in a domain name, like OnComp.com, or Yahoo.com, DNS translates the name to the numerical address that the computer can understand.

Knowing where to get an alternative DNS service can be useful at times. For instance, the large ISP Comcast had a DNS outage last year, meaning they couldn’t translate the Web addresses into their numerical codes. That was no problem for users who had followed the instructions at OpenDNS.com.

Some users say following those instructions results in faster service, but we didn’t notice any difference. OpenDNS also warns you if you’re about to visit dangerous Web sites, the so-called “phishing” sites.

Pretty crafty

AmericanCraftExpo.org is the Web site for the prestigious American crafts show held each year on the campus of Northwestern University. All the craftiest people are there, and you can see pictures of their work and contact the artists through this site. We especially liked the miniature planets made by Josh Simpson. He also has his own Web site: Megaplanet.com, as do many of the other artists.