Wow! Last month's tip about Optra Color 40 printers at Buy.com for under $100 was a hit -- got three for myself and watched the numbers left in stock go down quick. Quite a few of you sent e-mails regarding this printer that I'll try to answer here.
First, about PostScript vs. the HP PCL emulation mode for printing. A few folks wondered why it takes so long to print a photo under PostScript. Well, the short answer is that this is simply the nature of postscript printing. Your image has to be converted to postscript commands, which in turn are sent to your printer's interpreter. Thus that blinky printer light goes for a while, particularly if the image is an 8.5x11 photo. Such an image can be upwards of 16 megs. Personally I don't care, since I simply go on about other work while the printer does its thing. And for simpler images and web pages, postscript speed is reasonably fast.
To really increase speed, there are two basic choices. First (and by far the best way), you can increase the amount of RAM memory in the printer itself. In the case of the Lexmark Optra 40, on the back of the printer there is a 72 pin SIMM slot (see pp. 69-77 of the manual) that can hold variously 4, 8, 16, 32 or 64 MB SIMMS per the technical specifications for the printer. While there has been a big discussion in some of the newsgroups as to what kind of memory to use, I would suggest that you get the cheapest RAM that is low profile and will fit into the printer allowing you to close the back. Period. Get it at a show or from an old computer -- who cares. I know that there is a bunch of hype about 50ns v. 60 ns. speed, and various kinds of RAM, but so far I have not had a single reader say that the memory they installed did not work. Remember, printers just aren't that fast a device. The reason that the Lexmark RAM is so hideously expensive is simple -- some folks like large business accounts have the $$ and don't care. It isn't because their RAM is made by Chinese rocket scientists in a special temple in Tibet during the full moon.
OK, the other solution is to go with the PCL emulation instead of Post Script. While you all know how I feel about this idea (ecch!), it can speed up print times for some images, tho there may or may not be a loss of clarity. One user found that this worked well on his NT partition. Under OS/2, you can simply install a separate printer icon on your desktop so that you have one for Post Script and another PCL icon. Then you can drag and drop your file to the printer of your choice, having the best of both worlds. Better, of course, is memory.
The other questions that I get concern the price of ink cartridges -- they run about $30 for a high yield black cartridge to $40+ for a high yield color cartridge. My suggestion is to surf the net looking for deals at the various on-line vendors like buy.com and such. If you don't print a lot, this is not a big deal. But if you print a fair amount of photos or such, this is the big achilles heel of inkjets; the consumables are expensive. I'll try to bite the bullet in another column and try and refill. In the meantime, if you have refilling experiences, please let me know.
Finally, there is a new version of Maul Publisher out -- 1.20. Peter Koller, the author, has cleaned up the buttons, and there are more/faster dialogs. In addition the frame handler has been redesigned and the print function looks cleaned up and more functional. It also looks like a lot of stuff has been updated.
There is really a lot to like about this package, but playing with new software in my spare time, I simply haven't really pushed the program at all. If anyone else out there uses Maul Publisher and would like to help me write a brief introductory tutorial for it, please e-mail me. I would be more than willing to collaborate and send the results to Peter. You can check the program out at BMT Micro or Maul's own site: http://www.manglais.com.
Finally, Ghostview has been updated again, and is now up to a beta version 2.9. This works with the newer engine GhostScript 6.01. Another good example of the emx/ xfree ports and definitely worth checking out. For more information, check out
See you next month!
Reach me at Tony@scoug.com.
You might want to read last month's Ink.
By day, Tony Butka is a bureaucrat for Los Angeles County. In his other life he lives in a loft surrounded by computers, printers, and a host of vinyl records.