No Food for Thought

HP LaserJet Pro M227fdn (Debian GNU/Linux, Microsoft Windows)

admin Saturday March 31, 2018

After giving up on my Epson WF-3620 all-in-one, I had gone through a sixth consecutive defective inkjet printer. 6 printers of 3 different models, from 2 manufacturers, in 2½ years. Fearing loss of even more of my time and mental sanity by getting a seventh printer which would also fail near-instantly, I reviewed our needs and choices. Although I had always avoided laser because we print little (most of our usage is non-business), I decided to drop inkjet printers altogether and decided to replace with a laser all-in-one. After realizing that color laser printers were too massive, I decided to go with a monochrome HP all-in-one. After I gave up trying to add a M227fdw to my cart, I called HP and was told by an agent that was because HP had no such device in stock...

I then decided to go with a slightly less flexible but immediately available and considerably cheaper M227fdn (no touchscreen, no front USB port, no wireless). I thought I was lucky, since Debian stretch offers the very first hplip version which supports the M227 series. Setting up the printer was indeed easy after I remembered I needed to install the hplip package. I was impressed by printing speed.

Things got considerably worst with the scanner, which I connected via USB. I tried launching Skanlite, which refused to open with an error message. When I tried launching from the command line, it whined:

skanlite wrote:
sane_open(" "hpaio:/usb/HP_LaserJet_MFP_M227-M231?serial=VNB3J02222" ", &handle) failed! status = Error during device I/O

With such a helpful error message, I decided to try Simple Scan, which opened, but failed when asked to scan, complaining it was "unable to connect to scanner". After searching the web significantly, I was lucky enough to find the solution, given by another poor LaserJet user. The solution is to install hplip-gui, launch HP Toolbox, and install a proprietary plugin for that scanner. While that solution does fix the problem, if the M227fdn does require a proprietary plugin to scan, it's easy to consider HP Linux Imaging and Printing's table of supported printer models, which lists the M227fdn as having "Full" support and as having "Scan to PC", as fraudulently misleading.

The LaserJet has a relatively powerful web interface, but reports cannot be viewed, only printed. Inexcusably, the 10 reports offered, including the usage report, can only be directly printed on the LaserJet, even with firmware 20180510. Want to see how many pages you actually printed before buying a new cartridge? Sorry, that won't be possible if your current cartridge is empty.

I thought setting up the scanner on Windows would be easy, but I was overestimating HP once again. After installing HP's software, I was somewhat able to scan using Microsoft's built-in utility, but I could not see a user-friendly application from HP. I tried the menu entry "HP TWAIN Administration". It is not clear whether that application is purely administrative or if it's supposed to allow scanning directly. The home screen says to click on "Numériser" ("Scan" in French), but there is no such button. The name suggests it's just an administrative tool, but I could not find where the presets controlled there show up.

So I went to the manual and found that after installing the software on Windows, there should be an "HP Scan" shortcut in the Start menu. Unfortunately, even though I installed 2 different versions of the software on 2 Windows 10 installs, none had such a shortcut.

Thankfully, I then noticed that in one session, HP did install an application called "HP Smart", which does allow easy scanning (among other things), and which works. Yet, it wasn't installed on the PC on which I used the latest installer, and it apparently only installs for the current session (you have to repeat for each user!).
A big applause for HP for such a failure... how Smart is that? It's HP Smart.

But, after all this time wasted, it seems to do the job. So here's hoping I didn't get a seventh consecutive defective HP all-in-one, and that this will be my last post about printers for a very long time...

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