Vendors in denial: prints at 11

In previous columns, I have been less than complimentary about Hewlett-Packard Co. support. This was because I bought an HP Pavilion 8485Z about a year ago and the display on the damn thing has frequently frozen for no apparent reason.

Despite a couple of calls to HP tech support, several e-mail exchanges and endless fooling around by yours truly, no solution has been found. Indeed, HP’s attitude seems to be total denial. The trouble is, I can’t believe that I am the only purchaser of an 8485Z to have this problem.

Now, thanks to some insight from BackSpin readers, the problem seems to have been cured by switching off the hardware graphics acceleration. Of course, the display is now hardly leading-edge quality-scrolling has become a gut-wrenching screen spasm, and 3-D displays aren’t what they used to be-but at least it doesn’t lock up on me anymore.

Denial of problems is not the sole province of HP. A BackSpin reader recently told me of a great bout of denial on the part of Epson over its Stylus Photo E870 and E1270 printers. These printers are claimed by Epson to produce prints of photographic quality that will . . . well, I’ll let Epson’s marketing hyperbole speak for itself:

“Here today. Here tomorrow. Print your photos with the EPSON Stylus Photo 870 inkjet printer and they’ll be beautiful and fade-resistant for years to come-as long-lasting, in fact, as traditional colour photo lab prints. We’re talking about bright and colourful pictures boasting 1,440 by 720 dots per inch of photo quality. Shots so stunning you’ll definitely want them to last.”

Epson was claiming a 10-year archival life for the prints. The trouble was users were finding that prints were fading to orange hues in less than 24 hours!

There ensued a long and complex debate on bulletin boards and at trade shows by users who had amazingly deep technical knowledge about printing technology (people with the kind of knowledge that the Epson marketing folks should never attempt to argue with or lie to). I could quote some of the exchanges, but the heady mixture of chemistry and theory is heavy reading.

Let me cut to the chase: The problem seems to have been ozone. Apparently the chemicals used in the inks are sensitive to ozone levels, and for prints to have real longevity, they must be encapsulated. Needless to say, the photographers in the crowd were scandalized that a claim such as 10-year stability was made when it patently wasn’t true.

The bottom line was that users were actually very positive about Epson as a company (quote: “The company has almost single-handedly freed photographers from depending on labs.”) but appalled by the inability of the company to deal effectively and decisively with the problem.

Since then it appears Epson has been refunding the really unhappy customers but still selling the printers without adequate warning. If any of you know where this whole mess has got to, let me know.

Curiously, HP just solved my own printer problem. I bought an HP 2000C and it suddenly insisted after a few months of excellent service that two of the ink cartridges were empty. As I had just parted with US$60 for new cartridges, I knew I had a problem.

HP’s tech support answered the phone in less than five minutes, diagnosed the problem in another five, admitted it was their fault and that the warranty applied. HP shipped a replacement machine that arrived the next day and replaced the ink cartridges. Pleasant, knowledgeable techs and effective service.

Now if I could just get the HP printer support people to transfer to the HP PC support group, my problem with the Pavilion might get solved. Then we’ll get ’em over to Epson, sort that out and then move them on to Microsoft.

Gibbs is a contributing editor at Network World (US). He is at