Network Printers and All-in-ones Archive

Product Review–Brother VC-500W Colour Label Printer

I am reviewing the  Brother VC-500W colour thermal label printer which is the first label printer to implement colour direct-thermal printing. This was a machine I had previously covered when it was launched in to Europe due to its use of a direct-thermal colour printing process to turn out labels.

This is based on ZINK colour direct-thermal printing which was an R&D project within Polaroid to combine what their legendary SX-70 instant-camera platform was about with digital photography. But this effort was spun off as a separate entity which licensed it to different product manufacturers who primarily made pocket photo printers and similar devices. Polaroid even used this technology recently to create a digital instant camera that conveyed what their best-selling instant cameras were  about in to the digital world.

Brother VC-500W direct-thermal colour label printer

Connectivity

Touch control on Brother VC-500W colour direct-thermal label printer

Touch control on Brother VC-500W direct-thermal colour label printer.
Left touch panel glows blue for connection to a Wi-Fi network or white when it is its own access point.
Moving your finger in the ridge at the front while it is lit up cuts off the label

The Brother VC-500W colour label printer uses Wi-Fi for network connectivity. This is in addition to it using USB connectivity for regular computers. This can be as its own access point or as part of an extant Wi-Fi network. You can switch between these two modes by pressing the Wi-Fi button on the top left of the unit. If this button glows white, you are using it as its own access point which has the ESSID (network identifier) which starts with VC-500W. If the button glows blue, you have successfully connected it to an existing Wi-Fi network. As well, if the button is dark, the Wi-Fi functionality is disabled. This arrangement avoids situations where you don’t know if your printer switched to own-access-point mode or infrastructure mode on its own accord.

If you are not using Wi-Fi, you connect the Brother VC-500W colour label printer to a regular computer’s USB port using a supplied Type-A to Type-Micro-B cable. This will work with most regular computers as long as you download and install the Brother driver software from their Website.

This unit requires you to set it up as its own access point then log in to its own home page in order to configure it to work with an existing Wi-Fi network. Here, you press the Wi-Fi button until it turns white. Then you connect your regular computer or mobile device to this label printer by Wi-Fi to the ESSID that starts with VC-500W and has the last four digits of the unit’s serial number written on its underside. Then you point your Web browser to 192.168.0.1 and work through the online wizard to enrol it with the Wi-Fi network of choice.

Brother ZINK label roll installed in VC-500W direct thermal colour label printer

ZINK-based colour label roll installed in the printer

The existing-network Wi-Fi functionality is limited to the basic level of Wi-Fi network setup. Here, you can only connect it to a Wi-Fi network that is typically set up for home or small-business use with the WPA2-Personal (common Wi-Fi password) configuration. You can’t operate it on advanced enterprise networks or properly-configured public-access Wi-Fi. As well, this printer doesn’t support WPS push-button setup. As well, if you intend to take your printer between home and work and use it with the existing networks in both locations, you have to configure the printer to each network every time you start using it in that location.

From my experience, I had found that the software download and installation on both my Windows-based desktop computer and my Android phone worked according to plan.

Use

Colour label printed out of Brother VC-500W direct-thermal colour label printer

Colour label printed out by this label printer

I was using the Brother Color Label Editor which is available for iOS or Android on my Android-based smartphone to test the Brother VC-500W colour label printer out. Here, I found that like most newly-released devices, the printer needed to be brought up-to-date with the latest firmware.

The only form of driver-free app-free printing that this printer supports is for the Apple AirPrint platform and this only works with handling image files and PDF files.

The Brother P-Touch Editor and Color Label Editor software does take some time to get used to and both these applications that are supplied for use with this printer  The software is primarily pitched towards home users who create gift tags and the like where beauty is more important.

As well, it is as though the bar-code functionality on P-Touch Editor has been disabled for this printer which is a shame especially for small businesses who may want to create colour labels or ID tags that have machine-readable barcodes or want to use the QR code for something like Wi-Fi network details or Weblinks to be read by a smartphone’s QR-code reader. Here, you would have to use another program or Website to create the barcode then paste the image in to P-Touch Editor.

The colour output is mostly highly saturated and vivid which would suit most applications. Here, I am not thinking of high-quality photo reproduction but something of use to an ordinary household or small business who just wants colour labels.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

The Brother VC-500W colour label printer could implement WPS-PBC, Wi-Fi Easy Connect or similar technologies to permit a simplified Wi-Fi setup experience. As well, it could benefit from a mobile-platform app-based setup experience especially if intend to use it primarily with mobile devices. Support for Wi-Fi enterprise connectivity could go a long way towards having this machine appeal to the business community.

The fact that the Brother VC-500W is a very compact label printer which encourages us to take it between places could incite Brother to allow this printer to remember the configuration of preferably four or five Wi-Fi networks. This could encourage the ability for users to take it between places.

As for driver-free printing, Brother could add support for the Mopria standard in order to allow it to work with Android or Windows devices in that way.

Brother could see the use of ZINK technology come in to its own for direct-thermal colour transactional printing. If they were able to work with ZINK, they could share the knowledge that they built up with their PocketJet direct-thermal printers and making this medium more stable then lead towards improving the stability and longevity of ZINK-based documents. It can also extend to the idea of creating ZINK-based receipt/coupon printers for business applications where full-colour printing comes in to its own.

A wider-framed version of the Brother VC-500W that can take wider ZINK rolls could allow it to compete with the HP Sprocket and other ZINK-based photo printers. It can also open up increased use cases for colour labelling like personnel ID tags, cleanskin wine-bottle labelling amongst other applications.

The printer’s P-Touch software should be able to expose the business-focused printing abilities as well as the craft-focused printing abilities rather than limiting it to the craft-focused functionality. This can be important for people who value full-colour label and tag printing within the office especially if it is also about data-driven or barcode printing.

A question that also needs to be raised about the ZINK-based printing technology that this printer uses is the shelf life for consumables based on this technology. Here it may be about how long the rolls can exist whether within or out of their wrapping before they either print below par or jam up inside the printer. This is because of a reality where we would buy multiple sizes of the label tape to suit different printing needs and use each different one according to need.

Conclusion

I would see the Brother VC-500W Colour Label Printer satisfy most colour-labelling needs especially for householders who are using this kind of labelling for their personal crafts.

For example, I would see it come in to its own with people who are doing their own preserving and bottling and want to use personalised jar or bottle labels for those jars of jam, marmalade or something similar they are giving to their friends and family. In this case, the printer can be used with the CZ2005 50mm-wide roll of tape because they have a larger area for their graphics or photos.

It may also earn its keep in the education and allied sectors for creating unique and distinctive IDs for managing staff, students and other people who visit the premises.

In this case, I don’t really see the Brother VC-500W as being a “toy”. It also is a chance for Brother to exploit the ZINK technology for direct-thermal colour transactional printing applications.

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Why do I consider a digital fax vault an important feature for multifunction printers?

HP LaserJet Pro CM1415fnw colour laser multifunction printer

HP LaserJet Pro CM1415fnw colour laser multifunction printer – an example of a fax-capable multifunction that implements flash memory and fax-vault functionality

Nearly every multifunction printer that is pitched towards small businesses and SOHO operations is equipped with basic Group 3 fax functionality at least. Most will have the high-speed Super Group 3 functionality while most multifunctions that print colour will support colour faxing.

This is a feature still considered of value by people who work in the legal, medical and allied professions because they see it as the preferred way to exchange documents “over the wire”, especially in the context of requiring other parties to sign and send the documents.

But inbound documents that arrive via these machines can be seen by people other than the intended recipients which is something that can betray the required confidentiality that most of these documents require. This is an important issue as far as client confidentiality and privacy are concerned when it comes to legal, medical or similar issues; but can also be of concern with the intellectual property that most organisations accrue such as customer / member lists or financial reports.

This can be of concern in traditional workplace environments like clinics where you have people like late-night workers or contract cleaners existing in the office beyond normal business hours. It can also be exacerbated for small-time professionals who share or sub-let office space or use serviced offices.

It can also extend to people who maintain a home office, something that is an increasing trend for small-time practitioners or people who maintain a small public storefront at other premises. In this case, even though the business operator’s household respects the business’s confidentiality requirements, there is the issue of houses being occupied by house-sitters, couch-surfers and the like who may not respect that level of confidentiality even though you trust them. It includes tradespeople who come in to your home to perform work that you require.

What is a “fax vault” and how could this feature answer these situations?

Brother MFC-J5730DW multifunction inkjet printer

Brother MFC-J5730CDW fax-equipped multifunction which can be set up to forward incoming faxes to Dropbox or OneDrive

A “fax vault” function stores all incoming fax documents to a digital storage medium of some sort rather than printing them out. Then the user enters a code and selects a “print stored faxes” function to print out the documents. Such setups could allow functions like printing out selected faxes such as those that relate to the work they are dealing with, or forwarding the documents to another fax machine like the one installed at a convenience store or newsagent to be collected there. Some machines also provide a “forward to email” function where they send the received fax document via email as a TIFF-FAX file or a PDF file.

Some of these setups may provide PIN-protected dial-in access to allow users to enable or disable this function or forward documents to a nominated fax machine from the nearest telephone like their home phone. The functionality could also be facilitated through a Web page or mobile-platform app for a granular operating experience.

The most basic form of this kind of storage is in RAM memory in the machine, but a power failure can have you lose all the documents you have received. Better implementations of this storage can be in the form of non-volatile storage like a hard disk or solid-state storage device including an SD card or flash memory installed in the machine, or the data is held on a network storage like a NAS.

For example, HP implemented integrated flash memory within the LaserJet Pro CM1415fnw that I reviewed. This was in lieu of using RAM which is vulnerable to power failure, also leading to that printer implementing a comprehensive “fax vault” function,

Brother have come close to this ideal by equipping some of their printers with “Fax Forward To Cloud” functionality provided as a machine app where documents can be held in a Dropbox or similar online-storage account. But this feature still requires the user to have documents printed out as they come in.

As I review a fax-capable multifunction printer, I applaud manufacturers who offer this function in the proper manner in their products especially if it is feasible not to print documents that are held on the storage. As well, I applaud manufacturers who implement non-volatile memory technology, preferably user-upgradeable technology or use of external, network or common cloud-based storage for incoming faxes.

The feature is important to prevent others from seeing confidential faxes which come in through the machine thus assuring client confidentiality and privacy along with intellectual-property protection for professionals.

How to achieve this better

The manufacturers could implement flash memory in their fax-capable MFCs to avoid risk of document loss during power failures.

This can be taken further with the ability for the user to install standard-form storage devices like SDXC cards, M.2 or 2.5” SATA storage devices within the machine to allow the user to install higher-capacity storage devices at a later time; or a USB port to allow the connection of USB Mass-Storage devices like memory keys or external hard disks. SD-based cards or M.2 SSD sticks can work well with the manufacturer’s desire to maintain a compact design for their desktop multifunction printer devices.

Similarly, simplified resource-discovery protocols for NAS devices could make these devices discoverable by equipment other than regular computers. This could be facilitated through a Samba (open-source SMB implementation) client on the multifunction that implements the SMB protocol most of the NAS units use.

To protect the data on the mon-volatile storage device against further snooping should the non-volatile media unit be stolen, the fax-enabled multifunction printer could implement encrypted storage or simply encrypt the files associated with fax operation. File-based encryption can also work with data stored on a NAS unit.

The large capacities offered by newer cost-effective storage media would cater to businesses in the legal profession who are having to deal with large legal documents as a matter of course, or doctors who receive graphically-rich documents like medical imaging.

It also encourages the use of the non-volatile storage medium in these machines for storing fax documents yet to be transmitted such as with scheduled faxing or attempting to transmit a document to a machine that is busy or not answering. The benefit also applies when your machine is busy printing large documents and wants to keep itself available for other incoming faxes.

For regular printing from a network, the non-volatile storage option can allow for enqueued printing where each job waits on the storage medium until it is printed out. This can also work well with secure print-job release where you enter a code that you predetermine to collect your job before the job is turned out. It can also allow manufacturers to implement remote printing, public-printing facilities and the like as part of a multifunction’s feature set.

Let’s not forget scanning, where an efficient workflow can be created. Here, a user could scan many originals at the machine then go to their computer or mobile device to take them further by “picking them up” from the machine’s storage. A multifunction with advanced abilities could even have the ability to, for example, recognise many small originals like snapshot photos, business cards or till receipts that are scanned at once and create separate files for each original.

Conclusion

Having a digital fax vault as part of a small-business or SOHO-grade fax-capable multifunction’s feature set can be of value to professionals who place high value on client confidentiality.

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The UK to mandate security standards for home network routers and smart devices

Articles UK Flag

UK mulls security warnings for smart home devices | Engadget

New UK Laws to Make Broadband Routers and IoT Kit More Secure | ISP Review

From the horse’s mouth

UK Government – Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Plans announced to introduce new laws for internet connected devices (Press Release}

My Comments

A common issue that is being continually raised through the IT security circles is the lack of security associated with network-infrastructure devices and dedicated-function devices. This is more so with devices that are targeted at households or small businesses.

Typical issues include use of simple default user credentials which are rarely changed by the end-user once the device is commissioned and the ability to slip malware on to this class of device. This led to situations like the Mirai botnet used for distributed denial-of-service attacks along with a recent Russia-sponsored malware attack involving home-network routers.

Various government bodies aren’t letting industry handle this issue themselves and are using secondary legislation or mandated standards to enforce the availability of devices that are “secure by design”. This is in addition to technology standards bodies like Z-Wave who stand behind logo-driven standards using their clout to enforce a secure-by-design approach.

Netgear DG834G ADSL2 wireless router

Home-network routers will soon be required to have a cybersecurity-compliance label to be sold in the UK

The German federal government took a step towards having home-network routers “secure by design”. This is by having the BSI who are the country’s federal office for information security determine the TR-03148 secure-design standard for this class of device.  This addresses minimum standards for Wi-Fi network segments, the device management account and user experience, along with software quality control for the device’s firmware.

Similarly, the European Union have started on the legal framework for a “secure-by-design” certification approach, perhaps with what the press describe as an analogy to the “traffic-light” labelling on food and drink packaging to indicate nutritional value. It is based on their GDPR data-security and user-privacy efforts and both the German and European efforts are underscoring the European concern about data security and user privacy thanks to the existence of police states within Europe through the 20th century.

Amazon Echo on kitchen bench press photo courtesy of Amazon USA

… as will smart-home devices like the Amazon Echo

But the UK government have taken their own steps towards mandating home-network devices be designed for security. It will use their consumer-protection and trading-standards laws to have a security-rating label on these devices, with a long-term view of making these labels mandatory. It is in a similar vein to various product-labelling requirements for other consumer goods to denote factors like energy or water consumption or functionality abilities.

Here, the device will be have requirements like proper credential management for user and management credentials; proper software quality and integrity control including update and end-of-support policies; simplified setup and maintenance procedures; and the ability to remove personal data from the device or reset it to a known state such as when the customer relinquishes the device.

Other countries may use their trading-standards laws in this same vein to enforce a secure-by-design approach for dedicated-function devices sold to consumers and small businesses. It may also be part of various data-security and user-privacy remits that various jurisdictions will be pursuing.

The emphasis on having proper software quality and integrity requirements as part of a secure-by-design approach for modem routers, smart TVs and “smart-home” devices is something I value. This is due to the fact that a bug in the device’s firmware could make it vulnerable to a security exploit. As well, it will also encourage the ability to have these devices work with highly-optimised firmware and implement newer requirements effectively.

At least more countries are taking a step towards proper cybersecurity requirements for devices sold to households and small businesses by using labels and trading-standards requirements for this purpose.

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Product Review–Brother MFC-J1300DW INKVestment colour inkjet multifunction printer

Introduction

I am reviewing the Brother MFC-J1300DW INKVestment colour inkjet multifunction printer. This is Brother’s attempt at a high-ink-capacity approach to inkjet printing where there is an ink tank for each colour. But, unlike Epson who use separate tanks that are filled from a bottle, they use cartridges which hold some of the ink and the ink is transferred to a holding tank before it is used.

There is the Brother DCP-J1100DW which doesn’t have the fax ability and may be an economical path. Luckily it has the automatic document feeder which is of importance if you do want to scan or copy multiple pages at once.

Brother MFC-J1300DW INKVestment colour inkjet multifunction printer

Print Scan Copy Paper Trays Connections
Colour Colour Colour
B/W
A4 x 1 USB 2.0
Piezoelectric Ink-Jet 1200 dpi ID Copy
Book Copy
Thin Paper Copy
Multi-purpose tray capacity Ethernet
Wi-Fi 4
(802.11g/n)
Own-access-point
Wi-Fi 4
(802.11g/n)
(Auto-Duplex ADF IPv6 capability
Document Send/Receive
Real-Time Super-G3 Colour Fax via phone
Email-based Scan-to-email TIFF-FAX
JPG
PDF
Walk-up Print and Scan USB
SD Card
PDF Print
JPG (Print and Scan)
TIFF (Print and Scan)
Mobile Printing Apple AirPrint
Google CloudPrint
MoPria support
NFC support with Android iPrint
Online Services Print From Scan To
Dropbox, Box.com, OneDrive, Googlr Drive

Evernote, OneNote

Dropbox, Box.com, OneDrive

Evernote, Onenote

Multiple Users for Online Services Yes
“Own Account” Guest Access for Online Services No

 

Prices

Printer

Recommended Retail Price: AUD$300

Inks and Toners

Standard High Capacity
Price Pages Price Pages
Black AUD$41 3000
Cyan AUD$41 1500
Magenta AUD$41 1500
Yellow AUD$41 1500

The printer itself

Connectivity and Setup

The printer can be connected directly to the host computer using a USB cable. But it can be connected to your network via Ethernet cable or Wi-Fi wireless. This supports the ability to directly enter your Wi-Fi network’s passphrase as part of a wizard-based setup routine on the control panel.

Like with most of Brother’s inkjet printers, the cables for the USB or Ethernet connection are snaked in under the scanner platen which may be seen as being awkward for a newcomer.

Brother MFC-J1300DW INKVestment colour inkjet multifunction printer - ink cartridges

Ink cartridges as part of Brother INKVestment system – no need to deal with ink bottles

The Brother INKVestment approach offered by the MFC-J1300DW inkjet multifunction printer is based around high-capacity cartridges that offload ink in to tanks integrated in the machine. This is based upon a continuous-inking approach that Epson and others use for their “tank-based” printers but uses the simplicity associated with cartridge-based printers. It meant that there were no special procedures needed to be performed to get the printer up and running.

Paper Handling

Being a compact printer, the Brother MFC-J1300DW uses the traditional portrait feed-through method that most inkjet printers use. As well, it has a small A4 paper tray for storing paper, but this can be a limitation if you expect it to print a large job.

There is a low-profile automatic document feeder that works as expected and can come in handy for copying or scanning multiple pages or sending a fax.

Walk-up functions

Brother MFC-J1300DW INKvestment colour inkjet multifunction printer

A low-profile design is what this printer is about

There is support for Brother’s cloud-driven Web Connect functionality. This includes cloud-hosted scan-to-email, a fax-vault function with the ability to receive faxes to email or online storage, amongst other things.

A problem that can appear with “walk-up” scanning directly to removeable media is that the pictures don’t come out with a similar kind of quality that you would expect if you scan to a regular computer. I had noticed this with a project where I was to scan some pictures for broadcast use and found that you can’t determine the level of JPEG compression for pictures stored to the removable medium. This could be rectified through the use of an option to determine the JPEG compression level for SDXC cards or large-capacity high-speed USB devices along with support for USB 3.0 for the “walk-up” USB interface.

There is a USB port and SD card slot for printing photos from memory cards but this function is very limited. It doesn’t support DPOF printing where you can set up a print order on your camera, nor does it support PictBridge printing from your camera. As well, I could only see the first 300 pictures on an SDHC card that has 1099 pictures on it available for printing. What seems to be happening is that the user class who value the high-quality digital cameras is being forgotten about when it comes to walk-up printing functionality.

The Brother MFC-J1300DW is able to work as a Super G3 fax machine but doesn’t support T.37 or T.38 IP-fax endpoint abilities. It may not be seen as an important feature except for some professions like the legal and medical profession who do rely on fax transmission of documents. This is augmented with a “fax vault” function that allows received faxes to be forwarded to an online-storage service like Dropbox or an email address, but this function requires forwarded faxes to be printed locally by the machine as they arrive.

I would personally require this forwarding-to-online-storage function to have an option of not printing faxes successfully forwarded to online storage. This would be of value for out-of-hours fax reception in an environment where there is a risk of confidential faxes being seen by the wrong eyes. It could also use an SSD or SD card as an alternative to these options where you don’t want confidential material on an online service or via an insecure email setup.

Computer and mobile-device functions

I have installed the drivers from Brother’s Website for this printer on to both my Windows 10 computer and a friend’s Macintosh running one of the newer versions of MacOS which was to be used by them to scan some photos. Here, the driver-installation procedure went according to plan for both platforms.

I used my Samsung Android mobile phone to print out an email using the Mopria driver-free printing protocol and this setup worked properly via the home network. Here, the Mopria subsystem discovered the printer properly and turned out the document as expected.

Print / scan speed and quality

The print speed was very typical for an average inkjet printer that uses the orthodox printing arrangement rather than the newer landscape printing arrangement.  Here, it still turned out a sharp document for each print job I had sent to it.

I kept an eye on how this printer handles two-sided printing, especially when it comes to any “drifting” between the front and back of the page. There wasn’t any of that issue with this machine which would make it work properly with desktop-publishing jobs involving oddly-shaped documents like bookmarks or hang-tags.

I have test-printed two photos on to photo-grade paper and have found that there is the sharpness and definition in the images. The pictures do come out bright but the colour saturation could be improved slightly especially when handling reds.

I have scanned some photos with this printer and have found that there are problems with handling high-contrast photos especially if they are the kind of snapshot prints you get from a minilab. It may be a problem associated with most consumer scanners especially when it comes to reflective material.

Limitations And Points Of Improvement

This baseline home printer could be improved upon through the use of landscape printing. It is more so if the goal is to make this class of home multifunction printer more compact. As well, it could benefit from a “mezzanine” photo-printing tray like what the previous Brother home MFC printers offered along with having a deeper paper tray so you can have a larger amount of paper on board.

Having a higher-capacity paper tray can exploit the INKVestment system further by allowing for larger print runs to be fulfilled. Here, it would work well towards the end of school or college / university semesters where there is the likelihood of large assignments being printed out, whether at a proof-reading stage or for handing in.

Similarly, having the output tray as a separate item that is integrated with the printer rather than being attached to the paper tray can make the printer easier to load. This could also allow Brother to innovate further by designing an output tray that automatically extends when a print job is about to be turned out and retracts when the documents are removed.

Most of these Brother printers could support SMB or HTTP-based scanning to or printing from network and Internet resources. A feature like that could make more use of NAS systems as a digital document archive. Similarly, Brother could maintain interest in the standards associated with walk-up printing of digital images from cameras , be it PictBridge wired connectivity or DPOF removable-media-based print orders. This would earn its keep with printing out “there-and-then” prints of photos you took with your digital camera.

A question that can easily crop up with the Brother “INKVestment” approach is the cost of buying replacement ink cartridges at a later time like after that promised year of use. Here, it will be about whether it would be cost-effective to buy newer cartridges for the printer or simply to replace it with a machine of similar standard. But I have found that the cost to replace all cartridges on this printer wouldn’t be more than the initial purchase price of this machine, thus it doesn’t appear to be “disposable”.

Similarly, using the tank approach in the INKVestment system could allow for the ability to replace empty cartridges while there is ink in the tank so as to cater for heavy print runs. This could be facilitated through the use of an indicator that shows whether a cartridge is empty while there is reserve ink in the tank. Even an option for higher-capacity cartridges can come in handy where there is a situation of peak usage.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

I expect that the Brother MFC-J1300DW INKVestment colour inkjet multifunction printer is being positioned as a general-purpose home or home-office printer with the focus on a long time between replacing ink. Here, I would see it work well as a multifunction printer to be kept in a study or similar location and handle a typical household’s print requirements.

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Mopria driver-free printing now arrives at Windows 10

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Brother HL-L3230CDS colour LED printer

Windows 10 users can print to these printers using a Mopria class driver baked in to the operating system

Mopria Alliance

Press Release (PDF)

Fact Sheet

Previous Coverage on driver-free printing

What is happening with driver-free printing

My Comments

There are sure steps being taken to print fully-formatted documents from a computing device without the need for driver or companion software to be installed by the user.

It is to allow a person to print a document like a boarding pass using the printer local to them without worrying about make or model it is in order to install any drivers. This effort has been focused towards mobile platforms like iOS and Android thanks to the inherently-portable nature of devices that run these operating systems. But there are other use cases like dedicated-function devices such as set-top boxes or accessible-computing scenarios where you use specially-designed hardware for people with particular challenges.

Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 Intel 8th Generation CPU at QT Melbourne hotel

No need to find and install drivers for that printer you have to use with the Windows 10 laptop

But it can apply to regular computers, especially laptops that are likely to be taken from place to place. Apple facilitated this through integrating AirPrint in to the Macintosh platform since MacOS X 10.7 Lion so you can print to an AirPrint-compliant printer without needing to install drivers on your Mac computer.

Now Microsoft is using the Mopria Alliance technology to enable this kind of driver-free printing from Windows 10. This is facilitated through a class driver baked in to the operating system since the October 2018 feature update (Build 1809). The class driver is offered as an option of last resort if Windows 10 cannot find the device driver for a newly-installed printer through existence on the host computer or through Windows Update.

You can still install and update vendor-supplied driver software for your printer, something you would need to do if you want to exploit the scanner abilities on your multifunction printer or use advanced monitoring and quality-control abilities that the manufacturer offers. It would work if you are in a foreign place like your business partner’s office and you needed to print out a document “there and then”.

In the case of managed-IT scenarios, the Mopria approach avoids the need for inhouse or contracted IT personnel to install drivers on the computer equipment they are managing to have it work with a particular printer. It also applies to task-specific Windows 10 builds where you want to have the minimum amount of software on the device yet allow for printing. As well, creating a standard operating environment or a dedicated-function device based on Windows 10 code like a point-of-sale system can be made easier especially where you want flexibility regarding the printer equipment you deploy or your end-users end up using.

I would like to see Microsoft improve on this by having a standalone Mopria class driver available for prior versions of Windows and ready to download from their download sites. This is especially useful for organisations who maintain task-specific standard-operating-environments or devices based around these earlier operating systems.

What is happening is the idea of driver-free printing is being seen as a reality especially for mobile computing scenarios and all the popular operating environments are coming to the party.

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Product Review–Brother HL-L3230CDW Colour LED Printer

Introduction

I am reviewing the Brother HL-L3230CDW which is their latest iteration of a colour LED-based xerographic printer. These xerographic printers works in a similar manner to a laser printer but uses a row of LEDs rather than a laser steered by moving mirrors to light the imaging drum with what you are printing as part of the printing process.

Brother is positioning the HL-L3230CDW as a follow-on model to their HL-3170CDW colour LED printer and its stablemates. But they are also running this model as a baseline printer for their new colour LED xerographic printing engine. The higher-priced pureplay stablemates based on the new engine also have a colour LCD touchscreen and offer more in the way of walk-up printing options such as working with Brother’s Web Connect online printing subsystem. There are also some colour LED multifunction printers with the fax-equipped models supporting this same Web Connect as well.

Brother HL-L3230CDW colour LED printer

Print Scan Copy Paper Trays Connections
Colour 1 A4 tray(standard) USB 2.0
LED xerographic 1 sheet multi-purpose tray Ethernet
Wi-Fi 4 (802.11g/n)
Own-access-point Wi-Fi 4 (802.11g/n)
Auto-Duplex IPv6 capability
Document Send/Receive
Mobile Printing Apple AirPrint
Google CloudPrint
MoPria support

 

Prices

Printer

RRP: AUD$329

Toners

Standard High Capacity
Price Pages Price Pages
Black AUD$146 2500
Cyan AUD$106 1300 AUD$159 2500
Magenta AUD$106 1300 AUD$159 2500
Yellow AUD$106 1300 AUD$159 2500

Servicing and Other Parts (Laser Printers)

Price Pages
Drum Kit – per colour AUD$299 18000
Belt Kit (Colour lasers) AUD$194.50 50000
Waste Toner Bin AUD$43 50000

The printer itself

Connectivity and Setup

Brother HL-L3230CDW colour LED printer control panel

The control panel on the Brother HL-L3230CDW colour LED printer

The Brother HL-L3230CDW is able to connect to your computer directly via USB or via your home network using Wi-Fi 4 (802.11g/n) or Ethernet. This review will be the first product review on HomeNetworking01.info to implement the new Wi-Fi Alliance “generation mumbering” scheme that has just been set in stone when it comes to what kind of connectivity to expect from a Wi-Fi wireless-network device.

There is a small LCD display as well as a D-pad for basic machine setup functionality so you are not expecting much from this printer beyond a baseline print device.

Brother HL-L3230CDW colour LED printer toners in place

Toner cartridges and drum units in the Brother HL-L3230CDW colour LED printer

You have to open a lid to gain access to the toner cartridges. drum units and belt unit. Here, each colour toner cartridge is installed in its drum unit but you separately replace the toner cartridge and the drum unit unlike what happens with HP LaserJet printers.

Here, each of the parts are easy to remove and reinstall which can be of benefit when dealing with paper jams. If you are dealing with a paper jam that occurred around the back of the printer, the fuser rollers are exposed when you open the back panel and release another black plastic panel to rectify the paper jam. This is a risky situation due to these rollers being hot after a print job.

Brother DR-253CL drum and TN-253Y toner cartridge

Toner cartridge and drum unit as separate pieces – installed in a similar manner to Brother monochrome laser printers

A security issue that will always come up regarding dedicated-function devices that connect to your network and the Internet is making sure these devices are kept up-to-date with the latest firmware. This is something I will be paying attention to regarding these devices and writing up about in these product reviews.

Brother integrates in to their print monitor software installed on your computer a software-update monitoring function. If there are new versions of the driver or printer firmware, this program will let you know so you can update this software, whereupon you can update this software. It will lead to the installation of a printer-firmware update tool to install newer firmware.

Paper Handling

The Brother HL-L3230CDW has a standard paper tray for ordinary document paper. But like most of the popularly-priced Brother printers. it has a single-sheet multipurpose feed slot which can be annoying if you are doing things like run a batch of labels or print on special media.

Walk-up functions

Due to its position in the market for its product type as an economy “bare-bones” printer, this printer doesn’t offer walk-up printing from USB, network or online resources.

Computer functions

I have installed the driver software on to my Windows 10 computer from Brother’s official support Website and this installation went according to plan.

As for printing from mobile devices, the Brother HL-L3230CDW can print using Brother’s own iPrint&Scan app. But it supports driver-free printing in the form of Apple’s AirPrint and the Mopria platform as well as supporting Google Cloud Print.

There is support for code-based secure job release but it requires you to enter the pre-determined release code using a “pick-and-choose” method not dissimilar to text entry on a Smart TV or video peripheral using its remote control.

Print speed and quality

If the Brother HL-L3230CDW colour LED printer hasn’t been used for a significant amount of time, it would take around 20 seconds to yield the first page of the document from when you send the print job from your computer. If it was recently used, the printer would take around 10 seconds to turn out the first page of the print job. This is something that would be expected for most economy laser printers.

This printer would yield sharp crisp document output even for colour work thus making it suitable for basic office printing including printing of desktop publishing work.

I printed two test photos using Windows 10 Photos app along using the best printing-quality setting available and they came out slightly pale compared with Brother’s recent premium colour laser printer – the HL-L8350CDW. Most of the colours still come out vibrant although it doesn’t handle the flesh tones really well.

Even though I haven’t had the chance to personally test the Brother HL-3170CDW or its stablemates that are based on the second-generation LED xerographic print engine, I had noticed a significant improvement on photo output quality over the generations compared to when I tested the HL-3075CW which used Brother’s first-generation LED xerographic print engine.  What is showing up with the Brother HL-L3230CDW is that it is capable of yielding photo output that is good for ordinary use but not fully presentation-grade.

The Brother HL-L3230CDW’s LED print engine is the second colour LED print engine that Brother designed to implement an automatic duplexer across all of the models. But I have paid some attention to registration shift between the front and back of the same sheet of paper during a double-sided print run. Here, I had noticed a slight vertical shift where the back page was slightly shifted down from the front by a few millimetres. This is something that may be common with most desktop printers equipped with this feature but may be of concern with turning out print jobs like doorknob hangers, luggage tags or the like where you need to cut out a particular shape.

Unlike the premium Brother colour laser printers, the Brother HL-L3230 doesn’t implement a “quick turnaround” approach to automatic duplexing. Rather it seems to work one sheet of paper at a time while doing a double-sided print run.

Limitations And Points Of Improvement

One feature that Brother could work on with the economy colour LED printers is the registration shift for auto-duplexing. Here, they could make sure that there isn’t any drift between the front and back of the printed page, which can be of benefit for printing special-shaped work. It can also lead towards designing automatic duplexer mechanisms for printers that are paper-agile such as being able to work with smaller paper sizes or thicker paper.

The manual bypass tray could be able to support multiple sheets of paper, which can be of benefit if you are turning out a significant quantity of labels, printed envelopes or other special documents.

Another issue that will be of concern is the cost to replace the drum units when they come up for replacement. This can cause one to consider buying a new printer from the same range rather than replacing the necessary parts. It is more so where the drum units are being rated for fewer pages than the other components.

Another improvement I would like to see regarding this printer is the option to start a firmware update for a network-connected printer from its control panel through the “Machine Info” menu. This could be augmented through a message on the printer’s display to say that new firmware is available like I have seen with some of the multifunction units they offer.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

Personally, I would see the Brother HL-L3230CDW as an entry-level casual-use option for a xerographic-based colour printer that is suited for small jobs. This could be something that is a home office or a private “document-preview” printer.

An issue that will be of concern is that if at least one drum unit or the belt unit comes up for replacement at the same time as a toner replacement, it could make us think that this printer is worth replacing rather than the necessary parts. This is a problem that I see being endemic with economy-positioned printers.

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Brother offers to Europeans a full-colour thermal label printer

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Brother Europe

Brother VC-500W full-colour label printer press picture courtesy of Brother Europe

Brother VC-500W full-colour label printer

VC-500W Full-Colour Label Printer

Product Page (EU – English, UK)

My Comments

Brother is offering to the European market the VC-500W compact thermal label printer as a full-colour label printing solution. It is being pitched at applications like colour-coded labels, labels with multi-colour company logos or employee/visitor security badges that use full-colour photos. In the UK, Brother were even pitching the printer not just as a business tool but as part of home-based craftwork and hobbies – think of labelling those jars of marmalade, jam or other preserved fruits you make and give as gifts.

It is while some of the other printer brands are releasing at least one model of full-colour compact label printer using inkjet printing or some other compact full-colour printing technology. The question about full-colour small-form (label / receipt / ticket) printing is whether it is a real business tool or simply a toy, especially where the technologies will become initially expensive to buy and use.

This label printing system is based on the ZINK thermal printing system that Polaroid developed in the 1990s. But ZINK was mainly used for compact photo printers and digital cameras with integrated printers in order to share hard-copy prints of digital snapshots “there and then” like with Polaroid’s instant-camera legacy. Here, this used the direct-thermal printing process but uses the heat-pulse length and intensity to bring up particular colours.

A question that can be raised about the use of ZINK technology is how long the printed labels will keep their same colour before they deteriorate. It also includes whether how long unused rolls of the ZINK-based label tape for this printer can stay unused before they print below par or jam up in the label printer.

This printer uses the P-Touch software for regular Windows or MacOS computers or uses a special colour label-printing app for iOS and Android. It can link to the host computer device via USB or Wi-Fi whether directly or via an extent Wi-Fi network. It can work with a range of label widths up to 50mm and each label roll comes with 5m worth of full-colour label tape.

Brother could also take the ZINK technology further by implementing it in A4/Letter page sizes to create a highly compact mobile colour printer of the same ilk as the “PocketJet” mobile printers. Here, the issue of long-term archiveability for ZINK-based colour printouts would have to be tested for it to have business value. But it could be considered acceptable for applications where full colour is required in transactional printouts like work quotes.

As Brother slowly releases the VC-500W full-colour label printer around the world, it could be a chance to prove to home and business users real use case for full-colour small-form printing rather than it just being a toy.

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HP to start a bug bounty program for its printer firmware

Articles

HP OfficeJet 6700 Premium multifunction printer

HP to implement a bug bounty program to assure high-quality secure firmware for their printers like thisi OfficeJet.

HP Becomes the First Printer Maker to Launch a Bug Bounty | Tom’s Hardware

HP Launches $10,000 Bug Bounty for Printers | ExtremeTech

My Comments

Over the last few years, dedicated-function devices like printers, videosurveillance cameras, routers and the like have been identified as a weak point when it comes to data security.

This has been highlighted through some recent cyberattacks like the Mirai botnet attack which was driven by dedicated-function devices like videosurveillance cameras running compromised firmware along with recent security exploits associated with home and SOHO routers being able to run compromised firmware. There is also the fact that manufacturers are building the same kind of computer power in to these devices as what would be expected from a regular computer through the 1990s or 2000s. There is also the fact that these devices can be seen as an entry point in to a network that handles confidential data or be used as an onramp for a denial-of-service botnet.

Hewlett-Packard have answered the reality of firmware integrated within their printers by starting a bug-bounty program where software developers, computer hackers and the like are paid to “smoke out” bugs within this firmware. Then this leads to meaningful software updates and patches that are sent out to owners of these devices, typically through an automatic or semi-automatic installation approach. It is a similar practice to what Microsoft, Apple and others are working on to make sure that they are running high-quality secure operating-system and application software.

This has been seen as of importance for printers targeted initially at the enterprise market because they would be processing significant amounts of company-confidential data in order to turn out company-confidential documents. But this approach would have to apply to home, SOHO and small-business machines as well as the larger workgroup machines found within the enterprise sector. This is because these kind of machines can be used by people working at or running a business from home along with those of us in charge of small businesses or community organisations.

By HP setting an example with their printer firmware, it could become a standard across other vendors who want to maintain a culture of developing high-quality secure firmware for their dedicated-function devices. This is more so as the consumer and enterprise IT market raises expectations regarding the software quality and security that affects the devices they use.

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Product Review–Brother QL-1110NWB label printer

I am reviewing the Brother QL-1110NWB wide-format network label printer which is the premium model for Brother’s QL-1100 series of wide-format label printers. It is seen as something that can work with applications where barcodes, graphics or extra details like weights and use-by dates are to be placed on a label like with packaging or commercial-kitchen food management.

There are two machines that are part of the Brother QL-1110 Series label printer lineup – the QL-1110 and the QL-1110NWB. The QL-1110 can only connect to the host computing device via USB and also supports USB-host connectivity for HID-class USB barcode readers. Android users can use USB OTG or USB Type-C adaptor cables to connect their devices to this printer and print using the Brother apps.

Brother QL-1110NWB network label printer

The QL-1110NWB supports the abovementioned USB connections but also supports network connectivity via Wi-Fi or Ethernet along with support for wireless connectivity via Bluetooth or direct (own access point) Wi-Fi connectivity,

Both of these machines run from AC power using an integrated power supply where you are not dealing with a “wall-wart” or “power brick” to supply power to them. Rather you are simply using the same kind of AC cord that you would use to power a portable radio and that leads towards a cable you can easily replace if the original one goes missing.

Connection to your computer or network

Brother QL-1110NWB network label printer connections - USB to host computer, USB for peripherals, Ethernet

Brother QL-1110NWB network label printer connections – USB for direct to host connection, USB for barcode readers and Ethernet

The Brother QL-1110NWB can connect to your network via Ethernet or Wi-Fi wireless as well as being able to print from mobile devices using either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi Direct connections. But if you are setting up this machine for Wi-Fi-based network connectivity, you have to connect it to a regular computer running Windows via USB and run the supplied Printer Setting Tool to configure it. This doesn’t apply if you use WPS “push-to-connect” Wi-Fi setup or Ethernet connectivity on a small network.

I had found that the Printer Setting Tool was not surefire in its approach for Wi-Fi network setup and couldn’t even get it connected to my home network. But I could simply plug it in to the Ethernet connection which can be of use for setups where your premises is wired for Ethernet or you use a HomePlug powerline setup.

There is support for Web-based configuration but this only applies if you have it connected to your network.

It also supports Apple’s AirPrint driver-free printing standard so it can work with iOS and MacOS hosts without needing driver software.

Personally, I had found that the Brother QL-1110NWB label printer yielded a surefire connection when I used it with an Ethernet connection or a USB direct-to-host connection.

The label printers also have an integrated guillotine which makes it simpler and more elegant to manage the labels. This works under programmatic control or you can cut the labels manually through a push-button on the machine’s control panel.

Loading label stock in the label printer

Brother QL-1110NWB network label printer loaded with standard label tape

Loading the label tape in the Brother QL-1110 Network Label Printer

The Brother QL-1110 Series label printers can take the same standard-width label stock as the rest of the QL series reel-feed label printers. But they can take label stock that is wider than normal thus allowing for the creation of larger labels including the possibility of printing out standard name-badge or address labels in landscape form.

Loading any of the Brother QL-1110 Series label printers is a relatively simple chore no matter whether you are using the wide label stock or the narrow label stock. These label printers use a clamshell design and you release the lid by operating two latches at the same time, which doesn’t require much pressure. Then you drop the label reel in, making sure it engages with the ridge on the right hand side of the compartment.

Then you thread the label paper through the machine taking care to make sure the paper is under a black sensor box on the right side of the compartment while it emerges through the front. Here, there is very little effort needed to make sure that the paper is threaded properly.

The Brother label printer uses microswitches that sense mouldings and holes on the reel along with other microswitches that sense the width of the reel to determine what kind of label tape is in the printer including whether it is a wide-format label tape. Here, you would have to be careful that the correct label tape is on the correct reel if you want this unit to work properly.

System-integration support

A systems integrator or yourself could upload label template designs created using P-Touch Editor and set up a “computer-free” label-creation arrangement for data read from barcodes. This can work with an HID-compliant barcode reader connected to the USB host port (both models) or linked via Bluetooth (QL-1110NWB only). That setup would then appeal to stock-control and similar applications.

There is also support for ESC/P printing codes so that these label printers can work with other third-party labelling or similar software that implements this kind of output control.

Supplied software

All the Brother label machines including these units support the P-Touch Editor software which works as a quick way to turn out labels. If you use a smartphone or mobile-platform tablet, the Brother iPrint&Label app works in the same vein for turning out labels from these devices.

If you use P-Touch Editor, you could set it that way by selecting “Vertical” in the Orientation setting under the Paper tab. This means that it will print out parallel to the printer. Here, I would recommend this if you want to exploit the wide-format label tape for turning out address labels or name badges.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

Brother could make sure these label printers support any and all device classes to do with printing for POS, gaming and allied applications no matter the connection type as well as supporting other driver-free printing standards like Mopria Alliance and IPP Everywhere,

Similarly, Brother could look towards the use of other USB or Bluetooth input devices like keyboards or digital scales as a way to enter data for use with stored label templates. Here, it could work well with environments where you can’t use a smartphone or regular computer to enter data for a labelling environment.

I have always called on Brother to add a “measuring-tape” creation function to their P-Touch Editor software. Such a function would allow someone to use a label printer loaded with continuous-tape label stock to create a measuring tape that could be stuck to something like a worktop edge or door frame thus making that surface something to measure length or height with. This feature would appeal to laboratories, the medical profession, child care, education or a whole host of other professions who are always measuring things like people’s height for example.

As well, the P-Touch Address Book software could support country-specific addressing better by using nation-specific address layouts or omitting the ZIP Code barcode for non-USA addresses. It could be taken further through the implementation of machine-readable barcoding techniques that other countries may use to improve mail delivery.

Conclusion

The Brother QL-1100 Series label printers have become an example of legitimising wide-format thermal-based label printing for small businesses. This would be of importance for logistics and inventory-management applications where there is requirement for more detail on the label or to make heavy use of large barcodes.

But I would recommend the Brother QL-1110NWB specifically for those setups where you expect the printer to be located away from a regular computer.

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Epson has an A3-capable EcoTank printer that ticks all the boxes

Article Epson EcoTank WorkForce ET-16500 Multifunction A3+ printer product picture courtesy of Epson Australia

Epson Launches First Double-Sided A3+ 4-In-1 Inkjet EcoTank Printer | PC World

From the horse’s mouth

Epson Australia

EcoTank WorkForce ET-16500 A3+ Multifunction Printer

Product Page

Press Release

My Comments

Epson have previously released a range of piezo inkjet printers that implement their own continuous-inking system. This feature, known as EcoTank, has large-capacity tanks installed on the side of the printer and you add more ink to the machine’s ink supply by topping up these tanks from bottles of ink that Epson makes available. Here, the idea is to do away with the need to frequently replace ink cartridges when they run out.

But now they have refreshed this product lineup with all but two of the low-end models being equipped with auto-duplex printing. They have now taken things further by releasing the ET-16500 EcoTank multifunction which prints both sides on A3, Ledger or Tabloid paper and scans both sides of an original that is of any of these paper sizes.

This printer, which sells in Australia for AUD$1599 also offers the expected multifunction abilities like copying or G3 PSTN colour fax functionality. It also supports Google Cloud Print and can work with the Epson Connect Web / mobile printing subsystem, with it connected to your home or small-business network using 802.11g/n Wi-Fi or Ethernet technology.

It can turn out print jobs at a rate of 18 pages per minute according to the ISO standard and has two 250-sheet trays to hold the paper.  As well, the inks and printing system that Epson use are intended to give a quality equivalent to most laser printers. Let’s not forget that the ink tanks in this model are ultra-high-capacity to allow for increased printing of A3 or similar paper sizes. Some of these features may tempt you to buy the printer and see it serve as your organisation’s small office-based printing press.

But there are certain questions regarding output-tray or ink-tank capacities along wiht the time to print both sides of a page which can call out the issue of having this machine serve as that small-run printing press. On the other hand, you could simply focus the Epson towards signage, short print runs and the like as part of your promotion strategy especially where it has the high-capacity ink tanks and the EcoTank continuous-inking system.

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