printer troubleOur Okidata laser printer has been scolding us for the last month. Despite rich colors and strong blacks, it says we’re out of toner. We finally figured out why. The manufacturers have struck back at consumers for using cheaper inks and toners.

It started when Joy installed the latest printer driver from the web. Okidata said it was an upgrade but it turned out to be a downgrade – we could no longer use toner cartridges from so-called “third party” suppliers. (Why are they called third-party suppliers, anyway? Okidata itself would be the first party, of course, but who’s the second party?)

The toner cartridges we bought from an outside supplier were one-third the price of “Oki’s” own brand and they worked fine; the color and quality were great. That seems to be the problem: because almost all of a printer company’s profit comes from selling ink.

Hewlett Packard has done the same thing to our ink-jet printer. It will no longer operate unless we use their ink. A message flashes screaming “counterfeit ink!” – as if we were somehow violating federal law.

We counter-attacked – or at least Joy did. She removed Okidata’s “upgrade” and re-installed the printer driver from the original disk, Miracle cure — the Okidata prints fine and no longer displays “out-of-toner” messages. The problem was not the ink, but Okidata’s greed.

We’d like to do the same thing with our HP inkjet, which is refusing to print, but we can’t find the original disk. You know how it goes: “It’s around here somewhere.” Until we find it, we’re back to buying outrageously expensive HP inks.

One way to save a little money on ink, was printed in the AARP magazine. A reader wrote to say you can save ink by changing fonts: choose Times New Roman, Century Gothic or Garamond. (We wonder if it’s much of a savings.) Our own advice is to use “economy print” or “draft print.”

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