HP can’t write stable, decent software if their lives depended on it. Or at least that’s how I feel based on several years of fighting with the HP multifunction printer management software on various platforms. 2000, XP, and Mac OS X.
We have an HP Officejet G85 swiss army printer that does fax, scan, print, and has a nice hopper feeder for the scan/fax functions. As a piece of hardware, we don’t have much to complain about it other than the usual bit with inkjet cartridges costing so much and going dry at the worst times.
The software is another matter.
The printer started life on our home office network attached to a Windows 2000 Pro machine. USB support for anything under 2000 was a joke at the best of times, so we went with legacy parallel port. The G85 worked reasonably well for the machine it was directly attached to, but really only worked as a printer for anything else on the lan. The HP Directory fancy pants software that was supposed to let you scan and fax from across the network just wasn’t up to the task.
As new versions came out, we attempted to upgrade in a failed attempt to get the remote scanning working. The software would not uninstall cleanly and we ended up using a 30+ step procedure found on HP’s support site for doing a full uninstall and (re)install of the newer drivers + director software.
After a year or more of this, we went to XP for the print server. Similar issues ensued except the HP now had an uninstaller that actually worked. At some point we moved to USB for the connection, on the theory that the ECP/EPP parallel port stuff might be at fault and XP had fairly decent USB support when compared to 2000.
We still ended up using the G85 as a printer from afar and doing scanning from the directly attached pc due to HP Director instabilities.
As part of our home office network consolidation, we wanted to get rid of the XP box that was acting as print server, and so a JetDirect device was purchased. I think it was the 170x or similar. This has an ethernet interface on one end, and a USB on the other. HP Director software was still flakey but now we could scan from remote by using the web interface of the jetdirect device.
This was better but still depressing that the HP Director software was basically a big pile of stinky poo when it came to anything related to the non-printer functions.
Enter the Mac.
We’re continuing the desktop machine consolidation in the home office network, and are going to be 100% mac on the client side shortly. Maybe the HP Director software for Mac OS X is better than the windows stuff.
Ha. Not. Even. Close.
Issues under Mac OS X included the HP Director application being re-added to the dock everytime you logged in. Most annoying.
The other problem was the functioning of the HP Director software itself. Actually, the setup assistant — which everytime you wake the mac from sleep or login the HP Director Setup Assistant jumps in the way and says you haven’t finished setting it up yet. So, plug the config info in again …. during which some of the info is coming from the G85 such as fax number which is already programmed into it …. and at the end screen the setup assistant complains about inability to communicate with the printer.
Immediately after that it says hey the ink levels are low. So which is it, you can’t talk or you can and the ink is low? Bugger me.
Here’s the fixes to these two problems under Mac OS X.
1) Find this file /Library/Preferences/loginwindow.plist and remove the dict stanza that deals with starting the Director Docker.app
2) trash this file /Library/Preferences/Hewlett-Packard Preferences/com.hp.setupassistant
Aside from needing to do these two things, you will find that the HP Director actually works under Mac OS X for doing remote scanning and such. Yay.
Unfortunately it took us something like 4 years to get to this point, and the printer is likely ready to wear out soon. Murphy says it will. My recommendation for anyone contemplating buying an HP multifunction device is to find some other vendor that actually knows how to write software that works with their products. Read the support forums at their sites first.
big. steamy, pile. of. poo. printer. software. icky. ptooie!