Computer Hardware Archive

Product Review–Brother TD-2020 Thermal Label / Receipt Printer

Introduction

Previously, I had drawn attention to Brother’s new TD-2000 Series of business label printers which, unlike the QL series, were able to work as receipt printers, This is brought about by the fact that this unit prints on the outside of the thermal paper roll. Now I have the chance to review a member of the series in the form of the TD-2020.

This model, which costs AUD$399, is the direct-attached variant of the series which connects to the host computer via USB while there are the networkable variants in this series in the form of the TD-2120N and The TD-2130N which can be connected to a network via Ethernet.

Brother TD-2020 label / receipt printer

The unit itself

The Brother TD-2020 prints on the outside of the label roll thus making it suitable as a receipt printer. When I tested this unit, it was easy to set up, just by installing the driver off the CD or, as I prefer so that the machine works on the latest drivers, downloading the driver from Brother’s website and installing that driver. Then it was simply plug and play by plugging it in to the USB port.

Brother TD-2020 label receipt printer paper path

Simple fuss-free paper path which makes the printer easy to load

As far as the host software is concerned, this machine can work with the ESC/P formatting codes which are being used with most point-of-sale applications. Personally I would also like to see these models implement USB POS class drivers for this kind of printer so as to work with embedded devices and systems as well as provide simple “swap-out” installation for most computer-based POS systems.

For labels, the printer uses Brother’s RD thermal label stock which is available as either continuous or die-cut form. But you can use receipt paper tape of the same width that is used for payment terminals when you are turning out receipts or vouchers. Here, it works best with the larger rolls rather than the smaller rolls that you may use with something like a card payment terminal or printing calculator.

Idiot-proof operation here!

Brother TD-2020 label receipt printer - drop and close loading

Drop and close loading – not much to go wrong here

As for loading of labels or receipt paper, the Brother TD-2020 is simple to load due to the use of a clamshell design where you pull the tape out and close the lid to feed the tape through, There isn’t the need to thread the tape behind any rollers to have it ready to print. It worked as expected when I set a Notepad test document to the printer turning it out very quickly.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

The Brother TD-2020’s paper feed button could be larger due to the common practice in cafes and bars to use this to supply writing paper to a customer for them to exchange contact details with others. Similarly, Brother could repeat this design in a wider form for the wider paper tapes used in competing POS receipt printers.

Personally, I would like the printer to implement the USB HID-POS device class and other device classes associated with receipt / voucher printers so you don’t have to have device-specific drivers on your point-of-sale, gaming, interactive TV or similar application.

Brother could work towards a variant that is a two-roll design that can allow one machine to turn out labels and receipts which can earn its keep with pharmacy, travel and similar applications where an item has to be labelled and a customer needs a receipt as well.

Conclusion

Brother TD-2020 label receipt printerThe Brother TD-2020 label / receipt printer can earn its keep in businesses where the likelihood of turning out receipts or labels is very strong. Here, it could work as a POS receipt printer but serve as a label printer, or serve as a labeller for items like medicines but come in to play as a backup receipt printer.

Similarly, I would see the TD-2020 label / receipt printer as an easy-to-load receipt printer or labeller for environments where you have many different users such as a small business or volunteer organisation with many different employees or voluntters coming through the organisation/ This is because the way you load the tape in to the printer is effectively a simple “drop-and-close” operation. which means that there is very little that can go wrong with this system due to low risk of loading mistakes.

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Microsoft takes a snap at Apple in the DJ market with a mixing keyboard for the Surface 2

Article

Surface Remix Project shows a different way to Click In | Tablets – CNET Reviews

Microsoft reveals Surface Music Cover, gives DJs and producers more musical tools (updated) | Engadget

My Comments

When Microsoft presented the next generation of the Surface detachable-keyboard tablets, they presented a large swathe of accessories for these computers.

But they presented an interesting alternative accessory for these computers to make them appeal beyond the business life. Here, they showed a special keyboard which has controls relevant to DJing and audio production where there are sliders for bringing in and out audio tracks as well as a 16-button area for “dropping in” samples in to the mix. This is similar to the special USB keyboards that are sold to various vertical-industry groups but present themselves as USB Human-Interface-Device device-types.

They were showing the concept of what could be done if you had alternative task-specific keyboard layouts for this class of computer such as a piano keyboard for composing and arranging or simply a “hot-button” keyboard for gamers. The concept could be pitched at other detachable-keyboard tablet computers where special-purpose keyboards could be provided as accessories for these computers when they are used for particular tasks.

I also see this as Microsoft’s own effort to make the Windows 8.1 platform, particularly the Surface computers, more legitimate in the fashion-conscious area that is the DJ’s booth or table at the nightclub or bar. But personally, I would like to see Microsoft work with other brands that are “heavyweights” in the DJ scene like Pioneer, Technics and Denon as well as the “big-time” dance-music artists and DJs to raise Windows 8.1’s profile in the dance-music scene, thus working hard to put Apple on notice as the computer brand to be seen with.

It is also showing up that the current generation of small portable computers that run the Windows platform are being considered as highly-capable “pocket-rocket” computers that can suit many different tasks beyond Web browsing, e-mail reading and document creation.

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Brother now releases two thermal label printers that double as receipt printers

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Brother

TD-2020 Product Page

TD-2120N Product Page

My Comments

Brother TD-2120 network label / receipt printer (Brother press image)

Brother TD-2120 network label / receipt printer

When I reviewed the Brother QL-570 and QL-700 thermal label printers, I mentioned that a feature these units or products like these could benefit from would be to work as receipt or voucher printers for point-of-sale / point-of-service systems.

Now Brother have released in to the Australian market a pair of label printers that can serve as receipt or voucher printers. Both these units can work with the Brother P-Touch label creation software, but they can work with most thermal paper rolls used with other point-of-sale printers. The TD-2020 works as a direct-attached printer for a single workstation whereas the TD-2120N can be connected to a network and serve multiple workstations. There is even an add-on module that allows the TD-2120N label printer to work with Wi-Fi wireless networks rather than an Ethernet or HomePlug network. These units also can work with a battery for highly-mobile applications such as trolley-based setups or tradespeople working out of the back of a van.

This unit supports the ESC/P character-based printing mode for receipt applications as well as the raster-based printing mode and the TD-2020 can also be connected to systems that use serial connection rather than USB connection. Brother publishes application-programming interfaces for third parties to integrate labelling in to their regular-computing or mobile-computing applications.

There is the ability for these printers to work as standalone label writers through the use of a display / keyboard attachment that installs in the top of the unit. It is in addition to a label-peel attachment that simplifies the task of peeling off labels, thus making things much quicker if you have to put labels on many items.

I see these printers as equipment that can be evolved to a business’s receipt, voucher or label printing needs in a very exact manner.

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Software that can make a large display image touch-enabled now on sale

Article

Microsoft’s ‘touch screen’ for any surface goes on sale | Microsoft – CNET News

You Can Turn Any Surface Into a Touchscreen With a $150 App | Gizmodo

From the horse’s mouth

Ubi Interactive

Home Page

My Comments

You have hit on to the Windows 8 “Modern UI” as a way to start programs and have tried it on a touch-enabled Ultrabook. Or you have seen a computer desktop user interface projected on that wall and, to help the person who is operating that user interface, you point to key items on that image as a guide.

If you do want that touch-enabled user interface on a large wall, you would expect to pay heaps for a special projector and camera combination or a large touch-enabled LCD fiatscreen monitor. But Ubi Interactive, who is different from the Ubisoft games studio,  have integrated Microsoft’s Kinect technology implemented in the XBox 360 with a special camera sensor to allow you to use any old display system such as that economy data projector or a common flatscreen TV to make a projected image touch-interactive. Here, you just need to also purchase the Kinect for Windows camera kit for your WIndows PC but it can work with your XBox’s Kinect camera but is not guaranteed to do so.

It honours the gesture-based touch practices like sweeping across the screen to pan or “pinching” to zoom in and out because the display combination is seen by Windows 8 as the same as a typical touchscreen display.

The software adds US$149 to the equation for a single interactive point on a 45” screen but you can option up to larger screen areas and increased points of interactivity for up to US$1499. I would personally like to see the cheaper versions allow two-finger interactivity in a similar vein to what is expected for a device’s touchscreen so you can “spin” or “pinch-to-zoom” on the display rather than just point.

But what I see of this is that a large touchscreen display can be built around hardware you can easily get your hands on at most computer or consumer-electronics stores just by adding the software. Then think of playing a strategy game like Civilization V on the living-room wall just by pointing out units to be moved or engaged.

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USB 3.1 Spec Approved, Brings 10Gbps Speeds

Articles

USB 3.1 Spec Approved, Brings 10Gbps Speeds#xtor=RSS-181#xtor=RSS-181

USB alliance finalizes 10Gbps specification as USB 3.1 | Engadget

USB 3.1 spec finalized with speeds up to 10 Gbps | CNet

My Comments

Just lately, the USB Implementers Forum have called the USB 3.1 specification which allows for 10Gbps link speed over the cable. But, like with the previous USB standards, it requires both ends of the link to support this standard for the high data speed to occur but will support the gradual degradation that the USB standard is known for.

It is seen as a competitor to the Thunderbolt connection technology but can link to more than 6 devices downstream. Like other USB standards, this could also be seen as a cost-effective standard compared to Thunderbolt once it is mature and and there is a lot of chipset, operating system and peripheral support for it.

Personally I see the laptops and all-in-one computers gain real benefit from it with expansion modules (docking stations), external secondary storage especially external hard disks; and DisplayLink-capable display devices with high resolutions and other high capabilities being the target applications. The latter application will also tie in with the USB Power Delivery specification to allow a laptop to be powered by a larger external display or projector that has its own AC power supply thus providing for a single-cable “walk-up” display arrangement for work or play.

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Sony and Panasonic Jointly Developing Beefy 300 GB Optical Discs

Article

Sony and Panasonic Jointly Developing Beefy 300 GB Optical Discs

Blu-ray successor plan unveiled by Sony and Panasonic | BBC Technology

My Comments

Optical discs like the CD, DVD and Blu-Ray may be considered passé in the age of flash memory or cloud storage and the ubiquity of portable devices like iPads. But they still earn their keep in the consumer and business space as an affordable medium for exchanging or archiving data.

For example, they are still being used for distributing music, movies and games in a manner that appeals to consumers who want to maintain a collection of this content or buy it as a gift to give other people. As well, these discs may appeal as a cost-effective form for creating long-term archival copies of data or to distribute data to a large number of users in a form that can be handed over to the users. The disadvantage of slow access may not be of concern with data that one accesses on an occasional basis or is never changing.

Hence Sony and Panasonic have worked together on a 300Gb optical disc standard that they intend to be the successor to Blu-Ray.

For Sony, they want to see this format as a “pressable” optical disc format for distributing 4K UHDTV content especially to movie-collecting consumers. In some cases, this same format may make it easier for companies to sell larger collections of content in a compact cost-effective form, whether it be a series of movies or PDF renderings of a classic magazine’s back issues. Similarly, as sophisticated “core” games are optimised for the 4K UHDTV and are pitched at consoles, this next-generation optical disc could be used as a distribution media for these games. This would be more so with the “epic” titles like the Final Fantasy saga which has often been used as a “showcase” game for the PlayStation consoles.

The other main application will be long-term “archival” storage of data, where flash storage or regular magnetic hard disks won’t cut it for safe cost-effective storage. In this situation, the optical disks can effectively “free up” capacity on the hard disks or flash memory and, in a lot of cases, provide the “write once, read many” storage where the data cannot be altered once it is written. This latter option will effectively appeal to legal and regulatory requirements where the goal is to keep unaltered copies of key data.

What I see of the Sony and Panasonic effort is to keep the optical disc alive as a medium for long-term storage or cost-effective “collectable” distribution of content.

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Product Review–Brother MFC-J4710DW colour multifunction inkjet printer

Introduction

The Brother MFC-J4710DW colour multifunction printer that I am reviewing is based on a new paper-feed concept where the paper is fed through the machine by the long edge and marked across the long edge when the document is printed, which would be described as being “landscape orientation”. The key advantages of this design yield a relatively compact machine compared to most desktop inkjet printers which are much deeper as well as a quicker turnaround when the document is printed.

I am reviewing the MFC-J4710DW which is the top of the line model in this series and this has two paper trays as well as Wi-Fi networking. Lesser models like the MFC-J4510DW have a single paper tray as well as omitting the single-pass duplex automatic document feeder. The cheapest models like the MFC-J4410DW also have a slower print speed for those who don’t value the quick turnaround.

Brother MFC-J410DW sideways-print multifunction inkjet printer

Print Scan Copy Fax /
E-mail
Paper Trays Connections
Colour Colour Colour Colour 2 x A4 USB 2.0
Piezoelectric Ink-jet 2400dpi Optimised book copy, ID copy, duplex copy Super G3 Multi-purpose tray with A3 capability Ethernet, 802.11g/n Wi-Fi
Auto-duplex Single-pass duplex  ADF T.37 Internet fax, scan to email IPv6

Prices

Printer

Recommended Retail Price: AUD$299

Inks

Standard High-Capacity
Price Pages Price Pages
Black AUD$30 600 AUD$37 1200
Cyan AUD$24 600 AUD$34 1200
Magenta AUD$24 600 AUD$34 1200
Yellow AUD$24 600 AUD$34 1200

 

The printer itself

Brother MFC-J410DW sideways-print multifunction inkjet printer - loaded deck view with lengthways document output

Loaded deck view with lengthways document output

As I mentioned before, the Brother MFC-J4710DW prints along the long edge of the A4 sheet of paper. There are two paper trays so you can use different media types or sizes like A4 and A5 or letterhead and regular paper.

Installation and setup

Brother MFC-J4710DW sideways-print multifunction inkjet printer USB and Ethernet connections

USB and Ethernet connections under scanner bed

Like with the previously reviewed Brother MFC-J6910DW, this printer uses a cavity in the top of the machine under the scanner bed for connecting USB or Ethernet cables. This is different to the common practice of having these connections on the back of the printer and may impede in having them easily accessible if you wish to move the machine between different locations. Of course, the power and telephone connections are kept easily accessible.

For network connectivity, this printer supports Ethernet and 802.11g/n Wi-Fi connectivity. It also is ready for IPv6 networks which are becoming the norm for business networks and will become the norm with the next-generation broadband Internet.

Brother NFC-J4710DW sideways-print multifunction inkjet printer print cartridges

Print cartridges loaded from the front

Like the other inkjet multifunction printers that Brother offers and the newer HP OfficeJet small-business Inkjet printers, this printer has you load the cartridges via the front of the machine. This is a method which I applaud because you don’t have to lift a lid to change the ink cartridges when you run out of ink and this printer doesn’t require much effort to remove or insert the cartridges. It didn’t require much effort to load the cartridges in the printer which would work well with its useability.

Walk-up functions – can be started from printer’s control surface

I have done a few copying jobs with this printer and have found that it could benefit from a few improvements when it comes to locating the document on the glass platen for copying.

Here, you have to have the markings for where you locate the documents for scanning and copying in a contrasting colour so you can find where to position that document.

As well, the automatic document feeder can appear to be confusing for the unitiatied especially when it comes to locating the document. Here, you have to make sure that it is between the light-grey document guides and this issue may also be of concern with printers that use ultra-compact automatic document feeders. As well, the pages that are finished with are appear to be on top of the pages that are yet to be scanned which can be very confusing when you wish to remove pages that are finished with and / or add more pages to the job during a scan or copy of a large document.

It has copying features like optimised book copy, “copy to A3” and ID copy which are features I would start to expect from most copying devices. The optimised book copy feature worked very well when I was doing some copying of recipes from some cookbooks for someone who was cooking these recipes at another kitchen. It was also very accurate when it came to copying the documents.

The Brother MFC-J4710DW supports Super G3 colour faxing over the regular telephone line and has the expected capabilities of a business fax machine. As well, you can download a free add-on from Brother’s Website to enable it to become an endpoint for T.37 “fax-via-email” services. This includes the ability to forward faxes received via email to regular fax machines that don’t support this technology using the phone line.

Brother MFC-J410DW sideways-print multifunction inkjet printer memory card slots and USB port

Memory card slots and USB walk-up-printing / device-charging port

There is of course memory card slots and a USB port to facilitate “walk-up” printing of images and PDF documents from USB thumbdrives or memory cards. This also has the ability to print from PictBridge-capable cameras, but can work as a charging point for your smartphone, tablet or other gadgets even when the printer is in a quiescent standby mode.  These are hidden behind a black drop-down flap on the front of the printer.

Web-based services

Brother supports integration with the popular Web-hosted storage, photo-sharing and social-networking services with this printer. This setup operates in a manner which I like and I was pleased with it after I tested it with my Facebook account to print 2 images from an album of mine.

Here, you don’t have to enter your login parameters in to the device, which avoids using a small touchscreen keyboard for this effort. Instead, you use the Brother Web Connect page to enrol your printer with the cloud storage, social network or other service you have your account with. Once you log in to your service, a user interface will come up to ask you whether to allow this software and service to have access to your resources and those resources you are entitled to have access to. Then, if you give the go-ahead, you are given a temporary registration number which you key in to your printer on its control surface.

Then, at the printer, you select “Web” then select the service you want to use and touch the “Register/Delete” option. This is where you key in this registration number and give the account a known name and have the option to set a PIN to prevent unauthorised access to the account. With the photo-sharing services and the social networks, you have the ability to print out the pictures or download them to removeable media that is plugged in to the printer. As well, you can scan or upload the pictures to the photo sharing service or social network.

If you use Dropbox, Evernote or a similar service, you also have the ability to turn out hard copy of PDF documents and scan hard copy documents to these services as PDF files. Personally, I would like to see the ability to upload PDFs from removeable media that is plugged in to the printer.

It is one of a few method that I would like to see for linking users’ accounts on Web-based services with devices like printers or consumer-electronics devices in order to benefit from these services. Here, it exploits the reduced user interfaces that these devices typically have such as a numeric keypad or a D-pad by avoiding the need to “pick” letters on a virtual keyboard or be nimble with the numeric keypad for text entry when you sign in to Facebook, Picasa or Dropbox from one of these devices.

As for loading images from a Facebook album, it can take a bit of time to show up the pictures from that album but the pictures were gradually loaded one by one. But once you chose the pictures to print, the print duration was very similar to what I would expect for turning out photos.

Working with mobile devices

As for working with a mobile device, the Brother MFC-J4710DW printer worked properly with the iPrint&Scan mobile app on my Android phone. This was more so when it came to turning out photos or PDFs held on that phone.

There is also native support for Apple’s AirPrint technology as well as Google Cloud Print technology which can go a long way with printing from the iOS and Android devices.

Computer functions

Although I use the latest driver software from Brother’s Web site rather than what was on the CD in the box. I had found that the software had loaded very quickly without noticeable issues on my Windows 8 computer.

The ControlCenter 4 desktop-scan software could benefit from a “continuous scan” option available not as a custom setting but as an option immediately selectable from the scanning screen. HP’s desktop scanning software has the option to add pages offered as a default option and you click “Finish” to have the file completed and saved at the end of a scan job. Here, this would come in handy when you manually scan multi-page documents using the scanner platen due to factors like odd paper sizes, bound material or fragile documents; or pass a large multi-sheet document through the automatic document feeder.

The scanning procedure was very quick and accurate and performed properly even when I was scanning some very old fragile documents to PDF files.

As for the print driver, this software didn’t show any unnecessary dialogue boxes or pop-up messages during the printing procedure.

Print quality and reliability observations

Brother MFC-J410DW next to a regular multifunction inkjet printer

This printer takes up less desk space compared to a conventional inkjet multifunction printer

A 30-page printout on one side of the paper had yielded a quick reliable turnout but the colour may not appear to be as accurate as it should be for the printout. The high-speed turnout was brought on by the ability to work along the long edge of the paper.

A test that I do with printers that have auto-duplex facilities is to have the printer print a “download-to-print” door-hanger campaign document master on both sides of the paper using this function. Here, I look for any shift between the front and the back of the document so as to determine whether the duplexer mechanism is causing any unwanted shifting between the front and back of the document which may concern those of us who are using this function as part of creating odd-shaped desktop publishing projects like bookmarks, luggage tags or door hangers. I had noticed a very slight shift between the back of the document is slightly forward on the long edge compared to the front when I completed this test on this Brother printer.

Landscape document output on the Brother printer compared to the portrait document output on an orthodox  multifunction printer

Landscape document output on the Brother printer compared to the portrait document output on an orthodox multifunction printer

The Brother MFC-J4710DW also had passed the reliable printing test where I had it print a 90-page PDF using auto-duplex. This was important because a lot of people may think that the “long-edge” printing may be too “cutting-edge” to be considered reliable in a first-generation implementation of this technology. It has successfully completed the test without causing any worries.

When I printed out the test photos on the glossy paper, I noticed a strong yellow overtone on the pictures which was noticeable on the white parts of the image. As well, the flesh tones tended to become a bit more red. There also wasn’t much of the sharpness and definition in the images. I had done this test using the “best” settings for the printer driver rather than the normal settings and it may be a driver-specific issue. When it came to turning out images from the Internet using the printer’s control panel, there wasn’t much of that yellow overtone.

I had to use the manual bypass slot at the back of the printer to load the glossy paper sheets and this required me to load each sheet one at a time. Here, I was able to see the “long-edge” printing feature in action when it came to handling the pictures.

The big question that is likely to be asked about the Brother MFC-J4710DW and its peers is whether the “sideways print” / “long-edge print” / landscape print technology is too “cutting-edge” for reliable operation? Personoally, I had found this to be reliable for a first-generation implementation of this setup.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

The Brother MFC-J4710DW could benefit from a few extra features and these may be issued with subsequent-generations of this print setup.

One feature that would come a long way would be to allow more than one sheet of paper to be in the manual feed slot for situations where you may be printing many multi-page documents on A3 or special media.

It could also benefit from a document rest that automatically extends and retracts in a similar way to what happens with the HP Envy printers. This can keep the printer having that compact shape that it is known for/

The on-device software could benefit from a few useability improvements. For example, the Web Connect functionality could allow for searching or sorting “other users” on a social network when you are hunting down pictures to print from a “friend’s” album.

The other issue that is of concern not just with this machine but with all of the network-enabled multi-function printers that have fax ability is to support Internet-based time synchronisation. Here, you could just then determine what time zone you are in and the printer sets its clock for you automatically like what happens with most desktop and mobile computer operating systems. Similarly, a lot of these printers could benefit from increased memory or flash memory in order to allow for efficient copy, fax and “walk-up” printing functionality as well as being able to maintain its own network print queue.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

Brother MFC-J4710DW sideways-print multifunction inkjet printerI would recommend that the Brother MFC-J4710DW or its peers be considered as an option when you are considering a general-purpose desktop multifunction printer for the small business, professional’s office or a home office. This is especially where space is at a premium or a large desktop multifunction printer doesn’t look the part in your office space’s aesthetics.

The cheaper models may work well if you are on a budget and don’t place value on printing speed or simply have a high-end laser printer serving your high-speed printing needs.

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What has happened about the faulty firmware issue for the PS3

Article

Sony releases PS3 firmware update to fix last week’s fiasco | Tech Culture – CNET News

Instructions – From the horse’s mouth

Sony PlayStation

Manually updating your PS3 with the firmware

Safe Mode on PS3

My Comments

Sony PS3 games console

Sony PS3 games console – latest firmware should be 4.46

Previously, when Sony rolled out version 4.45 of the PlayStation 3 operating software, this update had caused many PS3s not to boot properly for interactive use. The situation had been described where the consoles were effectively “bricked” and Sony had to immediately pull the update from their PS3 software-update servers.

Now they have released version 4.46 of this firmware and made it available also as a manual-update file so you can recover a PS3 that had suffered this fate. When this situation had occurred with the PS3, the version-4.45 software went in to an “endless-loop” during startup thus not reaching the standard “XMB” start menu.

Fortunately, Sony had set up a “safe mode” for the PS3 in a similar way to what Microsoft, Apple and others have offered as a diagnostic startup option for their regular-computer operating systems. Here, this places the equipment in a known state with minimum software and hardware overhead that allows one to perform diagnostic or recovery work on faulty equipment.

In this case, you can load the firmware from a USB memory key and Sony have provided instructions on how to go about this, such as which folder to position the firmware file on the USB memory key. Here, you would need to use your desktop or laptop computer to download the firmware file to the USB memory key in the known location (\PS3\UPDATE).

Here they also detailed how to place the PS3 in to the aforementioned “safe mode” so you can load the firmware from the USB memory key. As well, you would have to connect the game controller to the PS3 via a USB cable while it is in this mode and be sure to select the “System Update” option on the menu that pops up to start this update without destroying your data and settings.

As well, I would suggest that you check that the version of the firmware on your PS3 is indeed 4.46 or newer in order to make sure that your console is behaving in a reliable manner.

An issue that could be raised regarding field-updatable firmware especially for consumer-electronics devices is providing a fail-safe update process with a rollback mechanism. This is more of an issue when there are situations like bugs that missed the quality-control process; failed download / install processes or, at worst, malware written in to field-updated firmware.

Here, the previous firmware could be kept in a separate section of flash memory or secondary storage, as well as the ability for the device to start in to safe mode thus providing the option for software rollback if the software didn’t start to the normal user interface.  Similarly, the standard user interface could be used as a way to facilitate this kind of software rollback, which can come in handy with bugs that creep up during normal operation. This is similar to what has been achieved with most desktop operating systems like Microsoft Windows, where the operating system creates “system restore points” at the start of software install or update processes and is able to roll back to these points if the install or update becomes dysfunctional.

What we are starting to see is that devices like games consoles, smart TVs and printers are becoming as sophisticated as regular computers and entering a point where the same kind of irregularities could creep up on them.

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Product Review–HP Envy 120 Multifunction Inkjet Printer

Introduction

I am reviewing the HP Envy 120 multifunction inkjet printer which is the latest in HP’s “Envy” range of designer slimline multifunction printers. This unit has the same pedigree as the HP Envy 100 printer which I previously reviewed, where it implements a low-profile auto-duplex inkjet print mechanism in a very stylish cabinet reminiscent of home audio and video equipment.

But this model has had a few changes like face-up scanning with a clear glass lid for previewing your originals as well as a swing-open panel for the USB socket and memory card slots. This is alongside the idea of having it finished in an “all-black” housing.

HP Envy 120 designer all-in-one printer

Print Scan Copy Fax /
E-mail
Paper Trays Connections
Colour Colour Colour Colour 1 x A4 USB 2.0
Ink-jet Resolution HP ePrint receive, Scan-to-email 802.11g/n WPS Wi-Fi wireless
Auto-duplex Face-side-up scanning with preview window UPnP Printing

Prices

Printer

The machine’s standard price: AUD$329

Inks and Toners

Standard High-Capacity
Price Pages Price Pages
Black AUD$25 200 AUD$48 600
Colour AUD$30 165 AUD$56 440

 

The printer itself

Envy 120 designer all-in-one printer printing a document

The Envy 120 printer when it is printing

Like the rest of the HP Envy printer series, this model conveys the kind of operation you would expect from high-end audio and video equipment like the classic Bang & Olufsen Beosystem 5000 Series hi-fi systems. For example, when a document is being printed, the front panel swings up and a small bar comes out in anticipation of that printed document. Then, when you collect the document, the front panel swings down.

Similarly, when you need to load paper in to the printer, you touch the “eject” button on the front and the paper drawer comes out in a manner not dissimilar to a CD player’s disc drawer. Then, when you have loaded the paper, you either touch the “eject” button or push the drawer slightly to close the paper drawer.

Walk-up functions

The printer is able to copy documents placed in the scanner area or print from memory cards or USB memory sticks using the touchscreen control panel. As well, you can use the HP ePrintCenter functionality to print out a wide range of documents ranging from notepaper to newspapers or comics.

It also works with the HP ePrint “email-to-print” function but also has a “scan-to-email” function which is infact an HP ePrintCenter app. This isn’t dependent on the machine knowing a POP3 or IMAP4 email service but through HP’s ePrint service. When you first set this feature up, you would need to enter your email address in to the printer’s control panel whereupon it would send you a PIN number via email. You enter these details in to the printer and can have them stored there. Subsequently, when the printer shows the “sender and recipient” screen, you can touch the “Modify Recipient” button to determine a different recipient. The documents can be sent as a JPEG or single-page PDF.

HP Envy 120 designer all-in-one printer card reader and USB port

The USB port (where you can charge smartphones) and the memory card slots behind a swing-down door

The USB socket that is used for walk-up printing from  and walk-up scanning to USB flash drives and similar devices also has been optimised as a device-charging socket. If you connect a smartphone, external battery pack or similar gadget to this socket, it will supply power to the device in order to charge it or avoid compromising the device’s battery runtime. This even happens when the printer is turned off using the on-off button on the front, This socket, along with the SD card slot that serves the same purpose of walk-up printing and scanning is hidden behind a hinged door on the front of the Envy printer.

Mobile-device functions

The HP Envy 120 works properly with the iOS and Android mobile devices using AirPrint (iOS only) or the HP ePrint app for both platforms. This app can work from JPEGs, PDFs or text files and can allow the printer to print both sides for multipage documents.

It does also support UPnP-Print for those devices that are willing to exploit this standard for network-based driver-free printing. At the moment, we don’t see any consumer devices on the market that are willing to exploit the UPnP-Print function but this could be relevant to cameras or interactive-TV applications.

Computer functions

I loaded the latest full-function driver software from HP’s Website and this loaded and installed very promptly without issues.

There is a problem that if the PC comes out of “hibernate mode”, it takes a bit too long to discover the printer on the network for scan-to-PC operation and shows up an error message as if the printer wasn’t there. But it can scan to the computer properly.

For printing, the print driver was very responsive and didn’t show any extra unnecessary information through the print process.

Print quality

The HP Envy 120 was able to turn out documents with a similar quality to other consumer inkjet printers. But when it comes to photos, it can lose a bit of the definition compared to the original Envy 100. Here, it also yields darker images with reduced contrast. Of course, this wouldn’t be a match with the Photosmart printers which yield higher photo quality for HP’s consumer inkjet printers.

When the Envy 120 prints on both sides of a page, there is a slight shift between the front and the back of the page. This can be annoying if you are using this feature for desktop-publishing especially with luggage labels and similar odd-shaped documents.

Scanning

HP Envy 120 designer all-in-one printer see-through scanner lid

See-through scanner lid

The scanner has the scan head integrated in to the lid so as to provide a “preview” window for how you scan or copy the documents or photos. This can work well for snapshots and single-page documents but can be difficult to use when it comes to working with bound material such as copying out recipes from a cookbook to avoid damaging that cookbook in the kitchen.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

One weakness across the HP Envy printers and the slimline printing mechanism is that they use two ink cartridges – one black cartridge and one “three-colour” cartridge. This can make these printers expensive to run especially if you consider regular use out of them because if you run out of one colour in the colour cartridge, you have to replace that cartridge.

Here, HP could improve on the low-profile auto-duplex print mechanism by using separate cartridges for each colour. It can also allow HP to use photo-grade inks that are used with the Photosmart series of inkjet printers, thus giving the Envy series deluxe credentials in the output as well as the looks.

The other weakness with this model is the scanner design not being able to work with bound material very well due to the it working “face-side-up”. This could be improved with a lid that uses a pantograph-style or “Z-style” hinge so it can lie flat on the bound material during scanning thus achieving best results.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

Like the HP Envy 100, I would see this printer work more as a secondary printer to keep in a living area where you value elegance and aesthetics. This also would appeal to households who want a multifunction printer but use it on an ad-hoc basis and also value the aesthetics. For example, this could exist in a family room, living room or main hallway while a workhorse printer could be mainly used in the home office for the big runs.

It wouldn’t impress people who place value on the price of the printer or the cost to keep it running especially as a primary workhorse machine.

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The Badgy card printer–a tool to turn out custom ID cards and short-run plastic cards

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Badgy

Badgy Card Printer – Design & Print id badges on plastic pvc cards

My Comments

A common question for anyone in business is what tools do exist for printing out plastic cards in short runs whether with the same design or populated with particular data such as a person’s details for an ID or membership card. Situations may include turning out membership or ID cards on an “as-required, while-you-wait” basis such as for late attendees at a conference or new library members, or making a test print of a card design to see how it looks.

There is a machine that can do this in colour in the form of the Badgy dye-sublimation card printer. This unit, which connects to a regular computer via USB, can print up cards using a ribbon that has a 100-card yield and can work with thin or thick cards. It can work with third-party cards such as magstripe and smart cards, but can’t encode any of the machine-readable cards itself.

It is based around you downloading templates with pre-designed art from the site and using the supplied software to turn out the cards. Of course, this unit would use a Windows printer driver so you could press your desktop-publishing software in to printing to these cards as long as they have the ability to print to the standard “credit-card” size, which is supplied by the driver software as a defined paper size. This could include the ability to use the software to turn out ID cards using the software’s mail-merging abilities or turn out short-run “for approval” card designs before you commit to a large card-print run.

The fact that it doesn’t encode the magstripe or smart cards shouldn’t phase you as long as you have a separate machine which encodes these cards. This wouldn’t be an issue with, for example, a hotel-based conference or event application where you may turn out ID or participant cards which are to be used as guest-room keycards. In this case, the workflow would require the staff member to transfer the card between the Badgy machine and the card encoder to create a useable custom-printed keycard which is the event ID card.

The cost per card would typically be AUD$0.88 per thin card or AUD$0.96 per thick card. But to develop this concept further, it could be feasible to work with other cheaper methods like ink-jet printing for these short-run applications appealing to small businesses. At least this machine is for plastic cards like the colour laser or high-volume inkjet printer is for brochures and stationery.

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