May 10, 12
Oh man, where do I begin? Maybe by telling you that the last few hours have been the worst user experience I’ve had in a very very long time! And that comes from someone who has been dealing with computers for the last 25+ years, going back to DOS and Win 2.1, early Macs, Amigas and what not. Anyway, here’s what’s happening:
Last night I bought an HP Deskjet 3070A to replace the HP Photosmart printer that kept rejecting the black ink cartridge after a while, again and again. And even though I’ve been using (and even recommending) HP printers for a long time now that last one actually made me think I should buy some other brand this time. But since I have all kinds of iOS devices here and the HP printers basically still are the only ones supporting AirPrint I caved and bought another one — the HP 3070A this time. I’ve unpacked that hellish piece of hardware almost six hours ago and have struggled with it for the last five or so!
After having installed the cartridges I downloaded the latest software from the HP website, installed it and configured the printer for wireless usage. Everything seemed to be going well. I then ran Apple’s own Software Update and it showed me that there was an update for the HP printer drivers available so I installed that as well. Everything still worked fine. I tried printing over the network and it worked fine. Thus far it had been a painless procedure. Then I tried out to print to it from the iPad — and the pain and torture began!
First the iPad just showed that it couldn’t find any available AirPrint devices. I thought it might be some small glitch and went back to the Mac OS X Print Center to check the printer again only to realize that even though it showed up there as connected it really wasn’t. When I tried to check ink status it said there was no information available. When I tried to print it told me the printer wasn’t connected. The HP Utility app did communicate with the printer only to tell me that it was an unknown device. The only thing that solved this problem was removing the printer from Print Center, then restarting it and then adding it back again. Then I tried scanning through Print Center and as soon as I tried to change the scan settings the app totally froze and had to be force-quit. Which again led to the printer showing up but not being reachable, then having to be deleted, restarted and re-added once again. Basically every time anything went wrong - which it did a lot - I had to do these steps all over again. Like whenever I changed something and gave AirPrint another try the printer started playing dead all over. Again and again. I had no idea why trying to print to it from an iOS device totally kills the stupid thing. And I had no idea why it wouldn't show up on any of my iOS devices either.
Then I started browsing the HP support forums and found some recommendations about updating the firmware of the wireless router, setting it to channel 11 and what not, so I did that as well. Although I really thought to myself that people should even have to do that — if everything else on the network runs just fine except for the HP printer it’s not the router’s fault, it’s the printers. Also the majority of users wouldn’t even know what to do, they'd just want things to work. Which they didn't. But anyway, I did all the router setup and so on but it made no difference: AirPrint still didn't work and trying to use it still killed the printer completely forcing me to delete it, restart it, add it again. And again. Now I was really getting frustrated. Not only was I not able to use AirPrint (the only reason why I bought the printer in the first place) but every attempt to do so made it completely unusable and lead to a laborious revival process!
While I was trying all kinds of setup variations I received a reply to my rant in the HP forums by an HP employee nicknamed "PrintDoc" who tried to help me solve the problems. First he also went on about the importance of having the right firmware on all devices, which I did. But again I thought to myself why would I have to bother wit that in the first place?! Anyway, then he came up with his actual suggestion: "Finally, if that does not fix it, let's set a static IP address and its own DNS for the printer." Are you freakin' kidding me?!
Even though I really appreciated his help (and I honestly did) his suggestion really stunned me at first. A manual IP address for the printer? Its own DNS?! Really?! People shouldn't have to do things like that nowadays. And while I am tech-savvy enough to do it I had to wonder what the many many regular users out there were supposed to do.
Anyway, despite my reluctance and frustration I wanted to give this a try so I did it, followed his instructions to the letter and actually assigned a manual IP address and a separate DNS to the printer. Rebooted everything and then tried again. Would you like to know what had changed? Nothing!
Every single iOS device still showed that there was no AirPrint device available, I still couldn't print over AirPrint, every single attempt to do so still made the printer totally unresponsive, forcing me to restart it and usually delete and add it again.
Does anyone at HP seriously think that this is an acceptable user experience?! I hope not. Something like this shouldn't be so hard. It just shouldn't. It's not like I'm expecting the damn thing to make me pancakes, I just want to use one of its main features, one that's advertised on the box, a feature that Apple has been recommending HP for ever since they introduced AirPrint. But I can't. I'm sure that many geeks out there enjoy fiddling with all kinds of network settings but there's a time and a place for that kind of "fun" and this is not it.
Anyway, just because I seem to be bored and kinda masochistic I fiddled around some more and here's the grand finale: First I actually changed the IP address again and rebooted everything and while AirPrint still wasn't available on any iOS device now at least trying to use it didn't make the printer unusable from the Mac, it "stuck" now -- but that's all.
While trying all kinds of other options I then used the printer's web interface to de-activate Bonjour services and then re-activate them again -- and for the first time ever it showed up on an iOS device! And for the first time ever I was able to print to it via AirPrint using an iOS device! And that was it. I was able to do it once! Every other attempt either resulted in a message that the printer wasn't available or it just attempted to print but nothing ever happened. After restarting the printer I was able to repeat the whole procedure: it showed up on the iOS devices again, I could print to it, just once. As soon as I tried again it failed. Every single time.
I would say that I have really tried everything humanly possible (and probably more) and when every other component within the network functions flawlessly except for the printer it's not the Mac's fault, it is not the router's fault, it is not a problem with any of the iOS devices -- it's the printer that isn't working properly and causing all these problems. It just is.
No AirPrint is still a dealbreaker and all this hassle and frustration has worn me down, so this thing goes back to the store first thing in the morning. As I said before this shouldn't be so hard. It just shouldn't. I will return this clunker and either just get my money back or buy some other printer, I don't know. What I do know is that this was my last HP printer ever. I've been a loyal customer for 15+ years but they've finally lost me.
It still blows my mind though that stuff like this is still happening today. And I just don't get the attitude of those support officials in the HP forums either. While I do appreciate their (attempted) assistance nobody ever said something like "Yeah, that's really bad and it shouldn't be happening. We're sorry and we'll try to fix that." Instead their idea of a solution is to blame it on the the router and have the user fiddle around with web interfaces, network settings, IP address setup and what not!? Really?! Call me a fanboy but man, I really wish Apple would still make their own printers…