The case of the insecure printer

Hewlett Packard (HP) wants you to know that while you pay more up front when you buy genuine new HP ink cartridges, you’ll “actually save you money in the long run.” Yeah, right. I’ve been hearing that siren song from printer vendors since the 1980s.

I don’t buy it. Neither do most printer owners. And neither do companies, whether they’re buying printers (and ink) for the office or for newly-remote workers who’ve had to set up shop at home.

According to a 2019 Consumer Reports survey about printer use, the “most common complaint was the high cost and hassle of replacing ink cartridges — and that affected every inkjet brand in our survey.”

Guess what? I’ve been using replacement inks and cartridges for years and I’ve saved money in the long run. My printed documents look just fine, and my printers work as well as they ever did. I wouldn’t mind buying the real ink, but it costs too much. These days, inkjet ink costs an astronomical $12,000 a gallon. I like good wine, but I’m not paying $2,400 a bottle for it.

Now, this is bad news, but it’s old bad news. We’ve been dealing with it and my all-time favorite printer annoyance — refusing to print in black and white if cyan or some other color is low — for decades.

Lately, though, the printer vendors have started patching their printers with lockdown firmware updates to keep users from refilling cartridges or buying replacement cartridges. HP and Epson last tried this trick in 2016. Do you really want a vendor deliberately crippling your printer, or any other device, with a malicious patch? I sure don’t.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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