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Computing With Bifocals
by Nancy Carroll Gravley

A column for people who remember what
the world was like before there was color.....

Another Good Book, & A Bad Multifunction Printer
March 10th, 2004

I have another book to review.  It's just the way the wheel turns, I guess, but several really good books have come my way lately.  This one is about the Internet, and works for both Mac and PC users, so you can consider it for anyone you know who wants to get online.  This is another in the Old Fart's series titled Old Fart's Guide to Internet Searches with an emphasis on Goggle.  You can read a previous review of a book from this series called the Old Fart's Guide to the Macintosh in my December 22nd column.

Title:  Old Fart's Guide to Internet Searches with an emphasis on Google 
Author:  Aaron Rosenzweig
Publisher:  Cocoa Nuts Technology
Pages:  195
Price:  US$19.95 -

I really enjoy the way Aaron Rosenzweig writes.  It is simple, straightforward, easy to follow, and interesting. It's that interesting aspect of his writing that is the kicker, and it is what sets his books apart. There is no ego getting in the way.  He concentrates on making sure the reader has enough clear information to understand what he or she wants to do and how to do it.

The book starts out by explaining just what the Internet is, what a service provider is and why you have to have one, and then moves on to e-mail addresses.  Here is Aaron's explanation of part of the e-mail address.

"The most striking part of an e-mail address is the "at" symbol which separates a person from the Internet Service Provider.  The "at" symbol looks like a  lower case "a" with a circle around it like this @.  You can type an @ symbol by holding down the shift key then pressing the number "2" located  just above the "w" key on the keyboard."

Before you say "everyone knows that," go back and read a column I wrote in June of 1999 about someone who didn't know that, and who almost gave up using a computer because of it.

The book continues to cover the topics of explaining the Web itself, the pros and cons of different kinds of Internet connections,  the pros and cons of Macs, PCs, and Linux-based machines, Web browsers, search engines, how to search intelligently, including how to use key words to your advantage, how to deal with a hoax, how forums work, and some great Web sites such as dictionaries.

Although I have given examples that apply to the very basic beginner, the truth is that anyone up to and including the nonprofessional, but experienced Web user can get a lot of helpful hints and ideas from this book.  Finding information on the Internet can often be challenging, and can often take a lot of time. There are enough guidelines in this book to shorten those tasks for all of us.  Have you ever found something of interest, and then tried to find it again later without any luck because you couldn't remember the paths you followed to get there the first time?  'Nuf said.

Check out Aaron's latest book for yourself, or for gifts.  Also, don't forget your local library.  If your city budget is struggling like ours is, your library branch would probably really appreciate a new computer book that was easy to read.

Now I have a Don't Buy Recommendation.

I don't like to do negative stuff in my column.  There is way too much good, fun stuff to concentrate on.

However, after using a Hewlett-Packard printer-scanner-copier combination (PSC 750) for more than 2 years, I have to recommend that anyone with a Mac not get one.  (I know, they are still not available in the stores; I will get to that.) 

I've used my PSC 750 with OS 9 and OS X. The printer and copier work fine, and I like being able to print and copy in color.  The quality of both the black and white and color copies is quite good for normal home use. However, the scanner will drive you insane.  In the time I have had my machine I have had to download and reinstall the print drivers 57 times.  I am not kidding.  Fifty seven times.

Every time I try to scan, I get error messages.  Sometimes it takes 45 minutes to get one thing scanned, and then I can immediately start getting the error messages again before I can scan a second document or item.  Two techies have checked my set up for me to make sure the error is not of my making, and I noticed that both muttered nasty comments about HP drivers under their breath while they worked.

When contacted for help, HP technical support always replies that there is some incompatibility with the Mac, but if the user will reinstall the print drivers the problem should clear up.

My most recent, and final, communication with HP tech help went like this:

I have a PSC 750 which is connected to an iMac G4 running OS X 10.3.2.  I have had this iMac since OS 9 was the default operating system, and I have had the 750 since then as well.  In that time frame I have had to download and re-install the print drivers 57 times.  Why?  Because the scanner will never work properly until I do so. 

I am so tired of spending up to an hour trying to scan one thing.  When this first happened, when the PSC was new, I was told it was a bug that would soon be fixed.  Well guess what -- It isn't.  I hate to think what my life would be like if I had to scan any more frequently than I do.  Isn't there something that HP can do to make this work?  It is such a good copier and printer, but it won't even scan two things in a row without getting error messages.

The reply that I got from HP was to "Try downloading the print drivers again.  That usually solves the problem."  

Guess how I'm going to solve the problem!

So, you may ask why am I ranting about this whole thing if, as I point out in the first paragraph, this unit isn't available in the stores?  The first reason is that they are probably still available second hand.

The second, and more important reason, is a deeper lesson for new users.  Don't make my mistake.  If you buy equipment for your Mac and it proves to have incompatibility issues with your Mac that are not immediately addressed successfully by the manufacturer, return your equipment to the store within the specified time frame, and purchase another brand.  If manufacturers are not interested in your business, find another one who is.  HP proved to me they didn't care that my US$200 purchase didn't do what it was supposed to do.

I would be interested to hear from readers about their experiences with printer-scanner-copiers and what brands have worked well with their Macs.

Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions  for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping.   To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.

Post your comments below.
Check out Nancy's complete index of all her columns for the most complete list of tips anywhere. The list is categorized and is a great reference when you are looking for help!

A Capacious Catalog Of Computer Tips

Talking to a generation that remembers what the world was like before there was color, covers issues for people who don't care how their computer works, but rather what their computer and the internet can do for them.

Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.

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