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Tell HN: Brother printers now locking out non-OEM paraphernalia
500 points by bbarnett 3 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 294 comments
I recently bought a Brother colour laser printer, with the understanding that OEM toner was not chip-locked.

Wanting to update the firmware, and being on Linux, I started to look at ways to do it manually.

After finding a few guides to do so manually:

https://wiki.archlinux.org/title/CUPS/Printer-specific_problems#Updating_the_firmware https://www.earth.li/~noodles/blog/2015/11/updating-hl3040cn-firmware.html

I decided to poll my printer. I then noticed an OSS/python project to just handle it via a package. However, I noticed this issue:


Startled, I Googled... and the printer listed is an inkjet. For a second I was relieved, but then started to search for other issues, and found this:


Not only is the above, post-sale firwmware update a change of what I understood to be Brother's historical policy, the method is beyond evil.

Brother seems to be apparently accepting the ink, but then purposefully making the print quality poorer.

I literally cannot think of something, product wise, more evil. It's one thing to say "We refuse to use 3rd party toner", and another to accept the toner, and then just purposefully print like garbage.

I was a happy HP customer for years, and only switched to Brother (which, by all accounts, is a much smaller / less renowned company) for the sole reason to not be vendor locked.

I will likely return this printer, but thought HN should know what Brother seems to be up to.

I can't wrap my head around how the printer market has turned into this absolutely dispicable, foul state that it is in right now.

Decades of innovation that have been invested, not to make a better product, but mostly on how to extract more and more money from their victims, I mean "customers".

I would like to own a printer again, but for printing something like once a month, I just can't financially justify spending several hundred bucks on a device that might, at the whim of the manufacturer, decide that the way I'm using it is not okay anymore, is probably designed to break after two years, requires me to sign up for a subscription service for ink, or whatever BS else the decision makers in this space come up with.

> I can't wrap my head around how the printer market has turned into this absolutely dispicable, foul state that it is in right now.

This is the dying gasps of an industry that is mostly irrelevant in the modern age.

When I was growing up we always had a printer, and while ink wasn't cheap, it wasn't too bad, so we used it a lot and printed everything we needed. The industry grew to expect this, most households with a computer also owning a printer and regularly buying ink for it.

This isn't the case anymore. So much of our lives happens "digital-only" that printers aren't needed by most people, and those who do need them don't need as much ink. I have never owned a printer myself, and my parents still own one but buy ink on a yearly basis now.

The market should be shrinking naturally, and so every printer company is trying everything they possibly can to grow or at least keep from shrinking as much. In the panic they are in, it's understandable that this will lead to crappy business practices.

Once again the "market" is abusing everyone in the pursuit of endless economic growth. Our economic system forces successful businesses into enemies of the consumer once they can't keep momentum.

Coupled with the concentrating monopolisation of the economy, this creates a phenomenon where helpless consumers are held at ransom: the ultimatum being that they either continue to be exploited in ever more devious ways, or to simply do without. Small businesses that spring up to fulfill the void are bought up quickly in order to squash any hope of real competition.

This is not an economy that works for ordinary people. Ordinary people does include temporarily embarrassed millionaires (and real millionaires, and startups and micro-businesses for that matter) on Hacker News.

The only people who are benefiting overall from these practices are major shareholders and those chasing endless quarterly growth targets.

Uh... Pretty sure the printer industry is holding literally no one hostage. As mentioned in several comments—this industry is dead.

My point is a general one - the printer market is doing exactly what all elastic markets do.

It's what they do if there is not a healthy market with lots of innovation and competition. It is a dieing (of maybe stagnant and on the decline) market where the few remaining are squeezing out the last remaining drops of revenue.

Competition isn't allowed to flourish when the market leaders use their runaway profits to buy up any and all possible contenders. My point is that this exact process can be seen across our economy, because anti-competitive behaviour is inherent to the economic system we live in. This is not controversial.

Selfishness and greed are inherent to people,the baby should not be thrown out with the bathwater tho. We should push against the Facebooks of the world because other economic systems have proven to be worse.

Well, without hyper-focusing on printers, I fail to see the call to action here. I don't understand why "this is not an economy that works for ordinary people".

I consider myself pretty ordinary and my life is impacted almost 0 by the forces of elastic markets.

Inequality is getting worse and worse across the west:


Businesses are choosing to use their profits to perform stock buybacks instead of innovating or improving standards for their workers:


Meanwhile the cost of living is going through the roof:


And pay is not catching up, further aggravated by inflation:


In the UK we also have a 54% increase in the residential cost of energy (within the context of extreme profiteering from energy manufacturers):


And 9.1% inflation:


This is true across the world. I'm not sure what your life is like, but it sure as hell doesn't match the lived experience of many.

So what was your story 2 years ago when energy was cheap and producers were closing down?

What was your story on May 18, 1980 when no one was prepared for Mt. St. Helens to explode and people died?

Then you, by definition, are not ordinary.

The average person is impacted by capitalist market economy shenanigans on a continuous basis on nearly everything required to stay alive.

It isn't dead. I use my printer now more than ever for printing postage labels.

Will home printer usage decline? Probably yes, but just like I have a home phone that I barely use, people will probably keep a printer around just in case.

> Coupled with the concentrating monopolisation of the economy,

There is no “monopoly” in the printer industry and it’s definitely not holding the economy “hostage”.

We do not need the government to break up “Big Printer”.

Capitalism optimises for monopolies. Everyone agrees on this - this is why we have antitrust mechanisms. Unfortunately, they tend to facilitate and reinforce the problem instead of combat it.

My comment is a general one on markets at large, hyper-focusing on the printer market is only valid as a rhetorical device.

> Everyone agrees on this

If you don't know the argument against your point of view, that is a good time to do some reading, not more writing.

I shouldn’t be focused on the printer market when commenting on a post about printers?

The printer market is a commodity market - the very opposite of a monopoly.

Yes, when replying to my general comment, you shouldn't use the typical conservative rhetorical tactic of using the specific to ridicule the principle.

I was making a general argument about the pattern one can see across the economy. The printer market is another example of the same pattern that we see all over the place.

I don't claim that the printer market is a single entity that towers over all - my point is that our economic system optimises for this eventuality. Again: this isn't controversial, antitrust laws have been in place for a very long time.

Your point ill suits the topic of discussion, and you're being called out on it. You shouldn't then resort to tribal epithets like "typical conservative", it only diminishes whatever point you were trying to make.

> my point is that our economic system optimises for this eventuality. Again: this isn't controversial, antitrust laws have been in place for a very long time.

This is a very strange argument, the fact that laws exist to prevent/punish something doesn't mean that everyone agrees that society is optimized to cause such eventualities. Laws are on the books in case something "bad" happens, it doesn't mean that society or the economy is structured to hurtle us towards those "bad" situations. It just means, they could happen and we need to deal with them. There are numerous laws against murder, but I doubt anyone would argue that everyone agrees that our society is inexorably optimized towards common and widespread homicidal tendencies.

It’s not “being conservative”. It’s “commenting on the topic of the post”

But which technology market is a legally defined “monopoly”? Before you mention the phone market, that was already adjudicated during the Epic trial and found not to be the case.

As far as “everyone agreeing that capitalism optimizes for monopolies”. The car market has been around for over a century, is it a monopoly? The computer market? Exactly which market around technology is a legally defined “monopoly”?

> Capitalism optimises for monopolies. Everyone agrees on this - this is why we have antitrust mechanisms.

This is not even close to being correct. First, monopolies are almost always the products of government interference with markets; "natural" monopolies are rare. Second, antitrust mechanisms were not put in place by benevolent governments to help consumers; they were put in place by governments who were getting political contributions from the failed competitors of the so-called "monopolies", who could not compete on a level playing field and so went to the govenrment to buy favors. The actual results of antitrust enforcement have been to make things worse for consumers, not better.

IDK, I'm in my mid 30s and I really can't remember printers being alright.

I do. I had a number of great printers before they adopted the DRM to enforce their razor+blades model.

1. HP Deskwriter. Built-in localtalk networking, connected to two Macs over phonenet. Bulletproof, paper handling was great.

2. HP Laserjet 4N. Built-in Ethernet print server, fast, bulletproof. Worked with 3rd party toner just fine. It was priced to pay HP enough for the printer even if you never bought toner.

3. HP Deskjet 6000-series. 6210? Worked great, beautiful color, obsoleted by USB replacing parallel ports.

4. Lexmark laser, bought used, worked with 3rd party toner, fast, networked, postscript. Was the workhorse for a political campaign.

Since about 2007 I haven't been happy with a printer. The toner is very expensive and the products are poorly made and not easily repaired.

Epson Workforce Pro: needs to print every week or its jets dry out.

HP OfficeJet X page at once, a great idea, but the jets jam if you don't use enough color, and the paper path breaks.

Brother printers: always yelling at me for some reason, and they wear out.

Lexmark color laser: great physical printer but the controller board hangs. Too unreliable for business. Toner is expensive.

Before the Deskwriter I had printers I was less happy with. An Epson dot matrix, I mean, nobody liked their dot matrix printers, and an Apple Stylewriter that was finicky, not crisp, and didn't hold much ink.

Those HP Laserjet printers were just incredible. They printed pages so quickly and crisply. That warm toner smell :)

I am the same age as you; when we were young the printers themselves were garbage. Constantly breaking, ink cartridges drying out quickly if you weren't printing regularly. Do they still have that damn ribbon thing inside of them? I seem to remember that being a constant source of pain for 13-15 year old me.

Now the printers, mechanically, seem pretty good. Some still feel cheap but not necessarily low quality. But all the firmware and software around them seems to be geared at whatever it takes to get you to spend a little more money. Stories like this one are exactly why I don't update my Brother TN-730 firmware.

I don't remember printers having ink back then. They were all laser. Inkjets came later, but they were seen as toys to print large banners.

My printer memories of the late 90's were of cheap Canon bubblejet printers. The ones that were cheaper to buy than replacement ink cartridges, to the point that it was cheaper to buy a new printer than it was to replace the ink. Good times.

My early laser printer in 1992 was great - the LaserWriter 300.

I'm in my late 40s and I remember the joy of printing out banners with Print Shop on a Commodore 64 using a dot matrix printer. It was fantastic but it's been pretty downhill since there. Video to show what I mean:


In the modern era, I've just bought a cheap Brother black and white laser printer and called it a day. The toner lasts F-O-R-E-V-E-R.

> The toner lasts F-O-R-E-V-E-R.

Now you know why the manufacturer wants to change things.

They shouldn't. Just make a good product and ask a price for both printer and toner that properly covers costs and allows you to turn a profit.

And then get driven into the ground in a market that competes on up front cost pretty much exclusively.

Printers became garbage when we switched from dot-matrix to inkjet.

Then they were horrible for 20 years until I decided to buy a Brother laser printer, and suddenly everything was right in the world.

I had a inkjet (bought for an Atari 1020?) printer in college. Four years plus graduate school, and all I needed to pay extra for was 2 ribbons which were cheap.

I was concerned my instructors might question wether I typed it, or used a dot matrix printer. None had a clue.

I was one of the first people to have a computer and printer, and I was embarrassed. It felt like cheating.

I will never understand why we as a society go from a device that works and is built well; to overpriced gadgets that are constantly trying to trick us to giving them more money.

I would like to see a ratings system, like that one we had here from I believe the EU that rated items on repair, but include any other shinaggigans after sale.

It's too bad Brother's caved in to greed. I was one of their unpaid promotional guys up until today.

I like to give credit where credit is due. I throw this in.

If you need a plumbing fixture buy Moen. I have two faucets that I have gotten free parts with for 15 years plus. I fill out a simple form, and send my receipt to them via email, and the parts arrive in the mail. In all honesty, I need to change my pipes to copper, or pex, but have procrastinating for years. Hence, I always buy Moen, and tell people just how good the company is. Moen recently changed up their lifetime warranty, but most products are still lifetime. If I was CEO at that they would go back to a simple lifetime guarantee on every product. It's free word of mouth advertising, and it's honest customer advertising. Once a company has word of mouth fairness on their side; they will actively have to make stupid decisions to not attract new customers. They should teach this in MBA day school. Just be fair, and honest.

I had a inkjet (bought for an Atari 1020?) printer in college.

Captain Pedantic checking in: the 1020 was the printer. Your computer was likely an Atari 800 or summat. The 1020 was also a plotter, and not an inkjet.

> In all honesty, I need to change my pipes to copper, or pex, but have procrastinating for years. Hence, I always buy Moen, and tell people just how good the company is.

What does the material your pipes are made from have to do with what company's faucets, showerheads, handles, etc. you buy? Also couldn't you replace your pipes but keep your existing Moen parts?

I'm as mystified as you are. All I can come up with is a misplaced sense that there's crap in the pipes causing failures of lesser fixtures, and hence the pipes should be replaced. Of course, not only would that likely be wrong thinking, it's also just a SWAG on my part. I really hope OP comes back with an answer. :-)

> They should teach this in MBA day school.

it's a basic dichotomy of long versus short-term thinking. markets in general and their people tend to be on the short-term side.

Hmm, the only Moen fixture I have (shower, $200) was worse than the basic one that came installed with the house (~$20).

It’s nice that they give lifetime warranty though.

I am mid 30s, and the Brother MFC black and white laser printers have been solid since I was 15.

No, this did not go bad recently in a declining market. There were never good actors - inkjet printers were physical malware in the 90s, too.

The cheap printer market has always been an abusive, anti-user shitshow. Arguably bad for the sellers, too - I've heard an argument that making cheap printers was the catalyst that ruined HP.

> printers aren't needed by most people, and those who do need them don't need as much ink

Cool anecdote. Here in Brazil, some small shops and cybercaffes will offer copy/printing services to you for a small change. That's usually where people go if they have to print/scan something. BTW this service is also know as Xerox.

I saw some shops running on retail printers, but most use those printers you can just fill with cheap ink.

Funny thing with my printer - I bought a "SAMSUNG Xpress M2026W Mono Laser Printer" for £60 about 4 years ago. Thought this is pretty good - Samsung's the way.

Then HP bought Samsung and killed that model.

Now I see they go for £130+ second hand on ebay.

I think that says something about how the market's going to hell as it were.

I still love my Samsung laser (ML-2251N), but it will be my last. On the other hand, I was able to get more toner fairly inexpensively, so it'll keep running for years now.

> I would like to own a printer again, but for printing something like once a month, I just can't financially justify spending several hundred bucks on a device

For printing something like once a month, it is even harder to justify wasting space by putting a printer. Printers should be put around in form of vending machines which would let you you insert a USB stick, drop some pennies and print the PDFs.

I for one, like being able to print content in the privacy of my own home without letting private companies like Fedex/Kinkos see it, and potentially filter/share it with third parties.

We're already shifting towards a society where things that offer a traditional offline, anonymous way of transacting information or currency is being construed as a threat because "terrorism", aka it cannot be monitored and controlled. Easily justifiable to still have one.

My dad still uses a Laserjet 4L daily to print ebay stuff and refuses to replace it because it works, and my 14 year old brother mfc, with an ipv6 stack(!) still works as good as the day I bought it. These things last generations.

The laserjet 4L works really well.

Where I live convenience stores (7-11) and most larger supermarkets have this. Basically a combo photo printer + office copier with a touchscreen and USB/memory card readers. Some of the are also loaded with postcards (for xmas cards) or even sticker paper to make your own stickers.

I also like to print out A3 posters for my kids and these printers can do that, whereas I'd never buy a huge A3 printer to have at home.

Your local public library is also a good option for this. Most, if not all, libraries have publicly-accessible computers where you can either log in to your cloud storage or email to print, and some have printers that can directly read from USB devices. Some will also let you send a file to a dedicated email address, where the library staff will print the document for you, should you be concerned about using shared hardware.

At my local library, prints are $0.05/page, vs. $0.15/page at my local commercial print shop.


US 7-11's absolutely do not have this service, and you're lucky if you find a grocery store that has a photo copier these days (was somewhat common in the 90s).

US drug stores commonly have a photoprinting area which I'd guess will do documents too. Not usually at the grocery stores or convenience stores though.

There's also reprographics places and most shipping stores do printing as well.

None of that is as convenient as a home printer, though. If you can get a decent color laser and lightly use it, it should treat you well for quite some time. Inkjets don't really like light use though, although I have fond memories of first page time on the ancient Deskjet 660C and 720C.

In my experience, US drug stores that can do document printing are the exception rather than the rule, though the self-service photo printing stations are practically universal.

I remember this being kind of common in Dutch supermarkets, but there are no convenience stores there.

They are. Public libraries and places like FedEx Office do this and have for years. FedEx even has a virtual printer driver.

Until my kids were a little older, I had an old HP laser printer and then one of those cheap Brother devices. Now I use a little HP mfp with instant ink… it’s essentially a worry free existence.

I was at Kinkos last month to print a us govt passport renewal application document. The document had one tiny bit of color, entirely non essential to the purpose of the document. FedEx printer will scan the print job, and if there is any color in it, will unavoidably print in color, at much higher price per page. I asked, there is no way to force it to print in mono chrome.

There's no way I'd ever use put that USB stick in one of my computers again.

It's not going to make a rubber ducky from it. And the age of autorun USBs is hopefully over. I think this is but too paranoid

However, I'd not want to be the device manufacturer, making it secure against all kinds of USB attacks

> Printers should be put around in form of vending machines which would let you you insert a USB stick, drop some pennies and print the PDFs.

Every Fedex Print/Office center has this service. Most city libraries do as well.

And it seems the nearest "Fedex Office Print & Ship" is 176 miles away and gets 2.7 stars. No thank you.

Obviously, you can't expect businesses to be at every place in the world. There are 3 within 10 miles of me and I live ~30 miles from Seattle.

For what it's worth, if you have a staples nearby that's exactly what they offer. They accept emails too. I use it for my once a month printing, usually spend like 2$ on a small stack of papers.

My local library allows me to print for a few pennies per page. I need to print things so rarely and don't want a printer taking up space, so I've been using my library most of the time.

... and store copies of your private files on their hard drives for up to years. No thanks.


Office stores have exactly like that in the Midwestern American city I live near. I like paper, so I have my own printer, but for occasional prints in 11x17 I use this and it's great. Quick, cheap, easy.

I'd love this but I can't think of a vendor that is reliable enough to put in a minimally attended machine. Thus we have the ones in UPS stores and markets.

There's been a sea change. In 2000 if you wasted time on a website for a pitch, it was a gimmick. People wanted a nicely printed, bound pitch book that they'd have in front of them at the meeting. They'd probably throw them away but one would float around for a while if you were lucky.

Now people expect you to have it digitally, and don't have a place for paper.

A lot of office equipment stores do that. For example in Australia Officeworks does that. You can even upload your bigger documents and drop in to pick up the ready result. https://www.officeworks.com.au/print-copy/info/pcc-print-and...

Anyone remember about a decade ago when Chrome had a "Print to FedEx Kinkos" setting in the print dialog? I used that so much. It was the most convenient thing. It was only available for a year or two? Then suddenly the feature vanished and I had to go back to using USB sticks. And now these days there aren't as many locations to print as there used to be.

I don't know where you live, but such devices are pretty common at least in France : you can go to most supermarkets and print a couple pages for less than a euro.

Definitely more expensive than ink+paper if you print a lot, but for my uses (couple of times a year) it's a no-brainer.

In France, some post offices have such self-service printers. I chose to go to the a self-service printer shop when I need it every few months. It minimizes resources, it limits feeding this toxic industry and it saves space on my desk.

UPS Stores also have this type of option. Though, depending on your print choice it is freaking costly.

We had a machine exactly like that at my university.

Pro-tip: Libraries.

> I can't wrap my head around how the printer market has turned into this absolutely dispicable, foul state that it is in right now.

There's no room left for innovation or competitive advantage. Its a commoditized market where they only make money when you buy their supplies so naturally they will engineer the product to work well with their supplies only.

This might be an opportunity for open source printer components. Maybe someone can create replacement parts to take out the "brain" of a small printer and replace that with a connected Raspberry Pi that doesn't change the print quality or reject 3rd party cartridges. I know there's likely a lot of settings in the software for head movement, ink usage, etc. so that might take some (possibly illegal?) reverse engineering. I'm a web software person so that idea may sound stupid to someone more knowledgeable.

> There's no room left for innovation or competitive advantage.

What? A hackable, OSS printer whose manufacturer puts time and effort into reducing waste and creating the best, longest lasting ink on the planet would crush it.

Well, maybe not. But anytime anyone has said: “That’s it. There’s nothing more to do here.” It tells me there’s a complacent market ripe for disruption.

How many people are using FairPhone or PinePhone outside HN bubble? I don't know anyone, even though most of my friends are from tech or science... I think that answers if people care about hackability / sustainability or similar

> A hackable, OSS printer

Outside of our bubble nobody cares about that

There is always something you can do, we see it with phones, just add more gimmicks on top, the thing is smartphones are aimed at the general population and became a fashion/class/status symbol. Printers are just printers, they work just fine and most of them are used in pro environment (aka most people don't pay, maintain or replace printers).

> It tells me there’s a complacent market ripe for disruption.

Then let's disrupt coffee mugs, or the wheel... some techs are good enough that further """progress""" isn't required.

Most people who have issues with printers buy cheap ones and/or use them once every 6 months, they then proceed to complain that they don't work anymore and that all printers are bad. It's like buying a car and never doing any maintenance until it dies and then complain about reliability.

> Then let's disrupt coffee mugs, or the wheel... some techs are good enough that further """progress""" isn't required.

There's still room to improve insulation on mugs, and I dare you to go tell any car manufacturer that wheels are a totally solved problem with no room to improve (personally I'm hoping one of the airless variants gets to mass market so I never have another flat).

Some techs are good enough that people get complacent; that's not the same as running out of room to improve.

Yeti built a company by disrupting coffee mugs. Michelan and friends spend a lot of money on improving the tire. Hardi and Trex have worked to produce better wood. Etcetera. Almost everything can still be disrupted or improved.

I kind of want to spend some time on this printer thing, now!

So it sounds like a company like System76 should build a printer and partner with no-brand ink cartridge companies to supply ink.

Or Pine64, then we could use it as part of the build farm when it wasn’t printing.

No, you're right. There's nothing particularly magical about a printer. The PCL and Postscript specs have been in place for decades. Writing a driver to take that output and drive a print head to put it to paper should be pretty straightforward. (Needing to mark each print at the behest of the Secret Service to prevent counterfeiting is a question mark to me. Is that spec public?)

It SEEMS like you could make printer "kits" for people to assemble themselves, which would take bulk ink, and escape all of this nonsense. But then you'd have to sell it in stores, where HP, Epson, and Brother would act like any other large corporation to block chains like Best Buy and OfficeMax from carrying it.

I recall in the past, laser printers shared significant guts with copy machines. That's a product with an effectively 100% business market, so they're going to be way more TCO-driven.

From what I understand, once you get far enough above the SOHO market, even current printers are still that way. I suspect in the past, the small laser printer market was getting trickle-down benefits from technology innovations to service the commercial market, but now it's become its own free-standing market which no longer responds to the same signals.

It also makes me wonder if that's the road to an affordable, if overkill, printer-- a module that bypasses the scanning side of a used copier, and renders your PostScript data to it.

Reliable physical paper handling, e.g. supporting different paper weights, sizes. and thickness, duplex printing, avoiding paper jams, is nontrivial.

Well given that there are literally thousands of printers on the market that make it work, I'm guessing that can be replicated.

They make it work to various degrees, after decades of experience and R&D. It certainly won’t be easy, judging by the difficulties printers often still have.

I believe it's the print heads that are the bottleneck. I don't think they're available to put in your kit.

A chinese company recently began manufacturing inkjet printheads.


> I can't wrap my head around how the printer market has turned into this absolutely dispicable, foul state that it is in right now.

Rent. You are effectively renting your printer, supplies are the payments. The hardware is expensive, sold cheaply, and supplies have high margins to make up for it.

It is often investors forcing this model.

I don’t think so. Nobody likes paying up front for equipment.

People lease cars, which is also a bad deal. Same motivation.

I'm not convinced that leasing is a "bad deal," per se, any more.

It’s been known since forever that printers are sold below costs to hook users.

Public buy printers. Good printers last a long time. Printer company offers online services (drivers / patches / APIs - see original post) which have on gong cost. But revenue stops after printer is sold. Printer company's remaining income is ink, ink sales undercut. Printer company goes bust. Printer company, who make printer, force you to use their ink. Printer company does not go bust.

Alternative (game console model) printer company license right to make ink for printer. Printer company does not go bust.

Cost of printer is printer + driver + server over life time of printer... what the public pay; a single one time purchase price.... model doesn't work.

> drivers / patches / APIs

It's a shame there aren't any open standards like lpd, jetdirect, postscript, and pcl for printers. /s

The printer business model has been abused for a long time in an effort to squeeze every last dime out of the market.

I'd argue there is one, and it's been around a surprisingly long time: Internet Printing Protocol.

<insert XKCD reference here>

I've had to dig into this a fair bit at work, and it's rather amazing. Certainly not perfect, but basically printers which are certified for IPP Everywhere (Mopria for Android, Airprint for Apple) are required to have built-in format support for a set of given formats. For example, Mopria certification requires PCLm (a backwards-compatible subset of PDF, designed for streaming), PWG Raster and PDF. IPP Everywhere mandates PWG Raster, JPEG and PDF. Of course Apple being Apple, they have their own Raster format (urf). The printers can support more (and typically do), but they have to include the base. Also the formats (and capabilities) the printers support can be queried via standard IPP. (*)

That sounds complex, but it means that as long as the printer supports any of those standards, you have a good chance of printing to it). I've printed to some pretty strange, limited printers via IPP, and had surprisingly good luck doing so (mostly via raster-urf).

Apparently in Linux CUPS is going this way completely, and has recently added built-in on-the-fly conversion. So CUPS will query the printer, and then send documents in whatever format the printer supports. If it's an AirPrint certified printer, then it'll send raster-urf; if it's IPP Everywhere it might send PWG-Raster or PDF.

Certainly not perfect (as my testing has shown), but it's a heck of a lot better than what we had before. And I've heard that they now have a standard for 3D printing (3MF*) aiming to replace STL. Apparently developed with the Linux Foundation. I have no personal experience with it, but with the complexity of 3D printing, I'd not be surprised if it's still immature.

(*) https://openprinting.github.io/driverless/01-standards-and-t... (**) https://www.pwg.org/3d/

Its because American consumers value cheapness over everything else and American corporations value profit over anything else.

Setting aside the general decline of the printer industry, and simplifying slightly, those two interests compliment each other into:

1. Producing the cheapest possible product, and then selling it for a loss while concocting subscription schemes to make-up for the lost profits at the point of sale of the product.

2. Paying employees in general less and less money proportional to inflation to "reduce costs", thus forcing the average person to demand cheaper and cheaper products. Completing the cycle.

This. Everybody wants quality products that last forever but they will go with the cheapest POS they find and then complain that nobody makes quality products anymore.

If you want to print something once a month you can buy a cheap printer for like €40 – which is probably subsidized because the manufacturer thinks they will earn it back on selling you overpriced ink. But they won't since you will buy a single toner and cover all of your printing needs.

Anyway, I don't have a printer. I always just take my pdf and take a walk to a local printing service.

As long as it's not an inkjet printer, since the ink will dry out or the printer will just think the ink is too old after half a year or so.

Yes! This was my plan too but I made the mistake of buying an Epson that is always “low on ink” and a PITA about third party cartridges.

And the ink will have cost you £41.

Maximise the waste and minimise the cost, yay !


Buying a whole ass printer to dump it when the initial ink/toner is gone might be economically viable it isn't ecologically viable

If you print something once a month, then shouldn't the starter cartridge last for about the life of the printer (maybe a decade or so)? That's been my experience with the B&W Brother laser printer I bought about 2010. I've never changed anything on it. And really I don't find much need to print anything these days anyway.

This is actually the biggest problem with my current home printer. My wife or I will print something after installing brand new ink cartridges. Then a month or two later, we try to print something again. The printer acts like it's printing (and seems to think that it's printed the document correctly), but the page comes out with little or no ink inconsistently spread around the page, as if the cartridges were empty.

We finally realized the problem was that excess ink was drying up on the (outlet/spout/I'm not sure of the right term) where it's fed out of the cartridge and onto the paper. In short, *we weren't printing _enough_.* Sure enough, as long as we print a page or two a week, it keeps working properly. Also, for some reason, the "Clean print heads" function or whatever it's called doesn't resolve the issue.

Yep, inkjets need to periodically "clean" the heads by squirting something through them, and they happen to be filled with ink, so that's what they use. I successfully got one working once with vodka when its self cleaning routine couldn't do the job and rubbing alcohol wasn't close to hand.

This is why I use and recommend a black and white laser printers - total cost of ownership is easiest and cheapest in my experience. I suppose they're more expensive than an ink jet to start off with, but it's not that big a difference and a decade of near trouble free printing is worth something for sure.

I don't see the need for color printing documents, but if so there's office stores. For photo prints I'd be looking at places with high end inkjets most likely these days, but there are other color processes that should still work well - I did RA-4 chemical photo printing way back when and it was excellent at the time and should hold up well, but I don't know that anyone bothers with that today.

A laser printer, even a B&W laser printer, is the best choice for a lot of people. I ended up getting rid of my ink jet for the reason you say. I don't print a lot but I do need to print semi-regularly and I'm certainly not going to drive 15 minutes to the nearest Staples every time I need a page or two printed out.

They artificially expire on some brands.

I don't know why you're getting downvoted, but that's my experience with a Samsung of about the same vintage/type. Still on the original cartridge.

Toner cartridge? It should (artificial limitations notwithstanding).

Ink jet? Nope, those starter packs are only enough to get you hooked on expensive replacements.

Toner != ink, in printer tech speak. Toner is a dry powder, and lasts forever, and laser has no jets to block.

Laser is more expensive, but is the only way to go for rare printing.

Because you have a laser printer. A lot of people try to be cheap and buy inkjets, and those things will fail if they sit without use for a month. And if the ink won't dry, the machine will claim it has, and force you to buy new ink -- which will cost more than the sale on the printer was originally.

True of most inkjets, but tank-type inkjets have water-based ink which is supposed to be more resistant to drying. The tanks are also "dumb": no sensors to check the level, or check that you are using approved ink.

How well does it work in practice? Well on my Epson ET4500 I get a few clogged jets every two or three months, but running a cleaning cycle has always cleared them. A bottle full of black Epson ink costs about £7.50 and seems to last about 1000-1500 pages. Colour has the same price, but I don't use enough colour to estimate low long it lasts. There seem to be several alternative ink suppliers.

This isn't a universal recommendation, just a response to your specific points. There is a premium for the tank models, so whether they are worth it depends on the amount that you print.

My 10 year old laser printer finally got dirty or something, the tops of pages have mottled spots on them now. I haven't tried cleaning it yet.

Low end printers are sold at a loss. Manufacturers must sell OEM ink/toner to make a profit. If you do not what to purchase expensive OEM ink/toner, there are many ink tank type printers available. Those printers are sold at a profit because replacement ink is sold at essentially no profit.

If you're using it for documents just get a laser printer. I have a brother laser sitting next to me. I bought a replacement toner when I got it 7 years ago. I'm 10% into the first toner cartridge. It doesn't really go bad either and the toner is reasonable. It also prints super fast and reliably.

For real world prints I just go to walgreens or now more likely to use a digital frame. My mom with memory issues LOVES her digital frame even more than photo albums as she can sit there watching it rotate through her memories. She has boxes of albums in her room but forgets they're there.

I think it boils down to companies finding legal ways of artificially lowering the baseline price signal that they send into highly price-sensitive markets. Similar phenomena in this sense include phone/DSL/cable plans that don't include various fees in the advertised price, the "sticker price" of a new car, smart TVs not mentioning that they're going to show you ads, and so on.

This is something Europe has been able to outlaw. US should really do the same.

> I would like to own a printer again

Just as a thought experiment, what about the other way round, where you could only rent a printer, fully serviced, as an appliance? Surely, this kind of business wouldn't be sustainable with this kind of tech with consumables running out every now and then, things breaking at any possible instance, non-replaceable consumables, etc. Follows, in addition to all this vendors are off-loading considerable hassles onto the "customer" (or rather, those who have no way around these offerings) to enable this scheme.

Suggested title for a fictitious article on the matter, "If the IBM 1401 had been built like a modern printer".

I agree. It's so hard to recommend printers to family and friends now. It seems they all suck in their own very special way.

The only reason I even have a printer is that I happened to find an old LaserJet for 10$ at my local thrift store. It was "broken" but all i had to do was oil the laser scanner motor. Right era of printer, toner cartridges are only around 20$, and I put in a JetDirect card. Only thing is the memory is a bit lacking, even being fully upgraded, so for complex documents it sometimes will pause between pages.

I definitely wouldn't have bought a printer new today.

+10 to this. Old monochrome laserprinters are the way to go.

Amd a very good case for anti e-waste laws and right to repair.

Never throw out a serviceable laser printer.

All my printing is via a 15 year old desktop mini laser printer rescued from a dump. It's been worth locating a printer engineering company to service it. Most of the time it sits idle in a clean, dry cupboard. When I print it's usually a whole document for marking, so it's worth the bother of getting it out, plugging it in and running one print job. Ink-jets, and that whole market is a failed technology in my book, not for technical reasons, but because the vendors have turned every product into toxic crap.

I haven't had a printer for the past 3 years and I refuse to buy one because of the disgusting economic and environmental practices of the ink mafia. Their behaviour has been beyond despicable for decades but somehow the world has just shrugged their shoulders and accepted it.

I have an iPad and downloaded PDF Expert and got an Apple Pencil to sign digital documents and I've only occasionally had issues I can't get around - Amazon return labels are the biggest pain in the ass.

If you're from Amazon, sort out a way we can ship returns without needing a printer!

You can return Amazon purchases without a printer. I've done it multiple times. You can either have them mail you a label (for $1) or take it to a UPS Store where they scan a barcode on your phone.

Lately, they've had our regular UPS guy, doing usual deliveries, have a shipping label with him, and he just picks up the return. We put a post-it on the cardboard box to let him know that it's the box to return.

I don't think you get to pick that service anywhere as such, so it might be regional or limited in some other way. When you initiate a return, you don't know whether you'll need a printer or not.

In the U.S. maybe those options work, but in Canada they don't. If by chance the goods were shipped via a courier that will scan the barcode to return, that works - UPS for instance, but 90% of the time you need to print a return label because the goods aren't returned via a carrier that supports that.

Ah. I was not aware you were Canadian; I was speaking about how it works in the US. My apologies.

2 other no label options sometimes available are to use an Amazon returns drop at a local Whole Foods or return to a local Kohl's store.

I just bought the cheapest HP laser printer so I can print tickets, shipping labels, etc. Toner lasts about a year with my usage? Never had to install any crappy software because it's AirPlay. Pretty happy with it.

I purchased it in August 2021 and the demo toner it came with ran out this week.


Toner is like £40 which works out at like £3.30 a month

IMO, this is a byproduct of capitalism. Do you own Brother stock? (Don't even know if Brother is public.) If you own Brother stock, then you care about the stock price. I'm guessing Brother executives compensation is related to Brother stock price. Markets price in profit growth. Printing has long ago progressed to the point that further improvements are not needed for the human eye -- so Brother can hardly make more money by making a better printer.

It's why industries need to be regulated. A company run for shareholder value is going to maximize profits and externalize costs. This class of behavior is not at all unique to this product segment or this industry. You think this is annoying? Gonna be somewhere between interesting to horrifying to see what big tech does if the profit growth flags.

> at the whim of the manufacturer

I've seen a clip on the Internet where printer rolls a customer satisfaction survey during printing on a little screen panel locking its features away.

I'm afraid that once my Samsung laser printer will be broken beyond any repair I won't have any other choice than to get the one of the newest anti-customer devices that will maneuver me into "supplies as a service" scenario.

And the question is why competition isn’t working

I’m sure I’ll get a settlement for like $7 in a few decades because of printer manufacturer collusion and price fixing. Like my recent optical drive settlement.

Because it is not profitable.

Buying cheap third party consumables is a hack. It is people taking advantage of the low prices (entry level printers are often sold at a loss), without paying for the overpriced consumables that is where the real profits are. Back then, manufacturers could absorb the loss, but now, with the printer market tanking, it is becoming harder and harder.

A company that decides to tolerate third party consumables is likely to attract customers who want to do exactly that, a significant loss. If they want to stay profitable, their printers will be more expensive, more than what casual users are ready to pay.

I don't know about laser printers but traditional manufacturers sometimes offer an alternative to expensive ink cartridges: ink tank printers. They are way more expensive than their equivalent cartridge-based printers, but ink is sold in bulk with no DRM (cheap). These, however, are only worthwhile if you print a lot.

They just don't get it... It's never been easier to _not_ print things.

Almost 40 years ago RMS, the guy people love to hate, created the Free/Libre software movement and a proprietary printer firmware was one of his motivations.

For 40 years this guy has been talking about the perils of proprietary software and people gave a shit to him.

Today people not only strongly defend proprietary software, but they think he is a moron, and even free/libre software activists think proprietary firmwares are okay as long their hardware works as expected.

Of course this is okay until their hardware stops to work as intended and you are locked out because the proprietary firmware, which usually is what happens.

I think current proper title for RMS - at least among Properly Thinking People - is "misogynist, ableist, and transphobic" [1]. I haven't heard many people calling him a "moron" though. Extreme idealist with some weird ideas - maybe, but a "moron" - I don't think so, especially as his predictions keep coming true. I'm not sure whether his recipes are the solution, but at least it can be obvious he can see the problem.

[1] https://rms-open-letter.github.io/

I have an epson eco-tank printer. I buy 3rd party bottles of ink once every 2-3 years. The upfront cost of the printer (multifunction model ET-4550) was high in 2015 ($500) but I've spent maybe $60-70 in ink to print (as of this morning) 19,536 pages (13,954 in color, 5,582 in B/W).

I can't see a good reason to keep buying printers that are locked into proprietary cartridges or toners.

Well, Brother had never done this to date. That is the real shocker.

Exactly. I looked at eco-tanks, and aside from the fact that the tanks would dry out given how little I need to print, it was avoiding the evil printing companies selling those printers. That left Brother: Linux-friendly, inexpensive open printers. Kinda took them at their name.

I'm not trying to sway you - I've never had the tanks dry out. The summer months (when my wife and kids are out of school) the printer mostly sits idle. For whatever it's worth, I have one real complaint with this (ET-4550) printer: It's LOUD and slow, not a great combination. It sits about 6 feet from me in my office and if my wife has to print a 100 page PowerPoint for school - it's maddening. Luckily I have an understanding wife that tries to print after I'm done working for the day.

The tanks will probably not dry out. I bought my ET-4500 in 2017, and I'm only half way through the coloured ink from the original fill. They are still working fine.

Exactly. Brother was my goto printer - I've bought many of them (for myself and family), and recommended them unreservedly to others.


I have an ET-4550 which I use for photo prints and art reproductions, mainly in small sizes like 4″x6″ and 8″x8″.

I am happy with the quality of the output with two caveats: (1) the ink is by no means lightfast. In the room I am sitting in now (bright sun, high humidity) I can perceive fading in prints after just six months. (2) it lacks a rear tray that feeds straight-through so I am at the mercy of the pick roller when it comes to printing on particularly thick, thin or slick papers. Since I always print both sides of the paper, paper that is slick on on the "good" side is often a problem.

Epson has two higher lines in the Ecotank range, one aimed at "creatives" that has 6 inks (still dye-based) and another "pro" line that uses pigment based inks (which typically last 70 years or so.)

Even though my material costs are super-low and I can afford to replace faded prints, I don't like spending my time to make ephemeral objects so I've had ET Pro printers on order from two different vendors for six months. It seems they've all been eaten by the supply chain monster.

I'm not a big believer that I need six inks to get good quality output, but I am thinking seriously about getting an ET Photo if I can since the ink used for that should be more lightfast, although these things are unfortunately terribly documented.

Don't they get you by making you change the proprietary sponge/ink pad though?

Oh and it's not user serviceable.


I've seen a few guides on youtube on how to replace or clean them out, then a paid service similar to unlocking phones to pay a hacker to reset the counter.

Sounds like we are back at square one. Or even worse because "regular" DRM'd printers are atleast cheap upfront and you can keep it cheap if you are ok with replacing ID chips/flashing cfw.

Ecotanks have another problem though. After a certain amount of time they lock themselves into "service mode" because the waste ink pad (or other internal parts) are considered EOL by the printer. The printer has locked itself, and you cannot repair it (unless you send it back and are ready to pay hundreds for it). I firmly believe that they are better than the cartridge scam, but let's not fool ourselves by thinking that they actually made a printer for the users.

You’re a different category of consumer. One of my teams responsibilities is end user print for a sprawling global enterprise. The market is segmented in various ways to meet the needs of different consumers.

We have tiny facilities where a prosumer HP 9000 series MFP is appropriate. Other places with have big $10k copy machines that print for like $0.02-0.04/page

Me too. Credit to Epson for taking this track. I wouldn't consider a cartridge printer again.

Sadly only applies to these high end ones; I got a cheap Epson one and found out after moving it to another country, that the cartridges are indeed vendor+region locked.

EcoTank printers don't use cartridges. You fill the ink tanks with ink bottles. They've come down in price, you can buy an EcoTank printer for ~$229. A couple of other companies have followed Epson in offering these kinds of printers. Sadly Brothers' version requires a proprietary cartridge tank.

Region locked ink?! That's a special kind of stupid.

Amusing story.

Sun used to sell different (large) CRT monitors to northern hemisphere vs southern hemisphere.

Apparently the magnetic field was reversed and the CRT guns would be pre-aligned for the correct part of the world.

(insert northern vs southern hemisphere toilet joke)

They do it for the same reason as anything else: to charge different prices in different parts of the world and still stymie the gray market.

Importing ink from another part of the world isn't gray market, it's a perfectly legitimate option that the vendor happens to not like.

Its the definition of gray market: "the trade of a commodity through distribution channels that are not authorized by the original manufacturer"

I looked it up and you are 100% correct. I now object to the existence of the term, as it clearly attempts to imply that legitimate activity is close to black market activity, but this is the correct use of the term as it exists. (Thank you for correcting me; it is far better to object to the right thing.)

Ugh. This is bad news. I've used Brother B&W lasers at home for the past 20 years, and they've been great. (I'm 5 years into my second one, because when the rollers wore out on my first one, 15 years in, I decided I'd rather have the iOS printing features they offered on their newer models instead of sourcing new rollers and taking it apart to change them.)

Between their BrScript and their no-BS networking, they were the last I know of to work with no fuss with all the machines I own. On everything other than the iDevices, it's nothing more than a PPD install.

I hope this isn't accurate.

I would recommend people who are looking for not only printers, but most kinds of equipment (except for cases where new stuff is unambiguously better than old stuff, but this is rare) to buy used professional/industrial hardware instead of new consumer equipment. And if this is difficult try to look for old consumer hardware still in good shape. These are often of much better quality and also it is much less wasteful to something used than new.

Professional equipment is usually in another league than consumer stuff when it comes to quality and reliability and also usually has very low resale value so you can get it for quite cheap. Personally I just picked up an old Sharp color laser printer for about 90$. This is a great machine that prints 2 sided A3 (very hard to find for laser printers) and with toners that should last about 10000 pages which is way better than anything you can buy as a consumer. The only backside is that it is quite big and heavy.

Old consumer equipment that is in good shape is often a good deal with the main reasoning being that something that has lasted for a long time has a higher probability of continuing to last a long time compared to something new where it is hard to say how long it will last.

Oh, this is bad. Brother has always, like for DECADES, been the non-shitty option.

Had ipv6 before anyone else.

Good Linux support, even for the scanners on their MFCs.

Agnostic about third-party toner.

This new firmware demolishes twenty years of goodwill.

I was just looking at a new printer, and likely to replace my old Brother B&W MFC and Samsung color laser, with a new Brother color laser MFC, but it looks like I'll see how long I can string the old ones along.

> I was just looking at a new printer

There's a discussion upthread about some epson models being mostly alright (with caveats; read the whole thread): https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=31860555

Bummer, I’ve been a fan of Brother in the past. Owned two monochrome laser printers that have been great over 10 years of service with not a single paper jam.

Indeed, I had seen so many good things said about Brother on Hacker News that I recently got an MFC-L2750DW for my home office that I am looking to swap for a MFC-L3770CDW as for some blasted reason Brother decided to get rid of printing and scanning from/to USB storage devices for the MFC-L2750DW. Having read this now on Hacker News, I am at a loss and tempted to dump Brother altogether.

Is there any reasonable alternative out there if you want:

* Laser printing

* Duplex printing

* Do not necessarily need colour

* Printing from USB storage devices

* Scanning to USB storage devices

That's also for me. I've advocated for Brother before here in HN, as they just seem to sell printers that works, and avoid toner shenanigans.

I'm in the same boat. I was a big fan after many years happily using a monochrome HL-5250DN networked laser printer. It was just great: the printer was cheap, it printed well and fast, the cartridges were dirt cheap and lasted forever (1 cartridge was like 7000 pages).

Now I have one of their color laser printer which is OK but it's slow, you can't print that much with it before having to change one or the other cartridge and the OEM ink is terribly expensive.

If they now prevent from using third party ink like this, I'm officially out.

Same but based on this post and since I don’t buy printers anymore I simply can’t recommend anyone anymore.

I’ve probably accounted for the sale of dozens of brother printers over the years.

I agree and recommend them to everyone. That said, their monochrome lasers also prevent non-OEM toners from working without an opaque sequence of key presses. Maybe this is normal for printers but it was non-obvious for me.

Huh? What's this sequence of key presses? I have a B&W MFC Brother device and my toner is at 40% so I might need the info in the next year or so.

Copy pasting instructions from some random site (https://printerthinker.com/brother-hl-2130/):

" If your Brother HL-2130 does not reset properly after putting in a new cartridge, and is still showing a 'toner low' or 'toner empty' message, it is possible to manually reset the printer:

Ensure the printer is turned off.

Open the printer front cover.

Hold the Go button while turning the printer on.

When the Toner, Drum, and Error LEDs are on and the Ready LED is off, release the GO button. All of the LEDs will turn off.

Press the Go button two (2) times. The Toner, Drum, and Error LEDs will turn on.

Press the Go button six (6) times.

The Error LED should now be flashing, close the front cover. "

This is very disappointing to hear. Brother were the one bright spot in the printer industry and I'm so much happier since I switched my business to using a Brother colour laser.

They've probably recruited one of the bright spark MBA execs that "revolutionised"[1] the other manufactures with this kind of rent seeking crap.

You know that deal, trade a firm's reputation for quality for a short term boost in profits, bank the bonus and move to another job before the chickens come home to roost. :(

1. By revolutionised I of course mean ruined.

Wanting to update the firmware

If you weren't ever wary of updates, this should be a strong lesson. The updates are not for your benefit anymore; the companies just want to have you on a leash where they hold the other end.

"Don't fix it if it ain't broke."

and then just purposefully print like garbage

In other words, they're maliciously spreading FUD that 3rd-party consumables will result in lower print quality, and then making that a self-fulfilling prophecy. That should be illegal if it isn't already.

Gods I hope this is just a fluke but reading OP and some comments it seems that it is not. :(

In any case, first thing I always do when I install a printer is to give it one exact static local IP because I made a firewall rule that blocks all outgoing WAN traffic from that IP. I lost faith in all my periphery to not sing behind my back and took things in my own hands.

My Brother MFC works amazingly well and I will not think as a programmer in this case; I'll be a normal human who says "no need to update it if it works" and leave it at that.

So far zero complains and I am happy with my device. And with these news I am even happier that I am paranoid and make sure my device doesn't get a firmware update.

This is disappointing.

I had been recommending Brother printers exactly because they did not pull shenanigans like this, their windows drivers were pretty light weight, and their Linux support is very good.

Is anyone working on a OSS printer, like 3D printers? Buy an existing printer and then rip out + re-wire it's controller?

Disappointing. I am on my second Brother HL series laser printer. They've been great for me. Fast cheap printing and readily available 3rd party toner and drums.

The first one I got it in 2010 and I purchased a 2nd in 2018 when the first stopped working. I would have kept using the original if it were possible to repair it. I would have also paid more than the $80 sticker price

I thought that was well known. In EU printers cannot be sold "inked locked". They do lock themselves as soon as they have an opportunity to update their firmware. My Brother never had Internet access. I configured it with the Internet gateway unplugged and assigned it a static address to which I forbid Internet access. It is now running on compatible color cartridges. For black I stay on OEM ink.

It is funny that my venerable HP I had previously stopped working soon after I started using compatible ink. Since it was several years old, I was wanted to spare on ink. A gear broke soon after. Repaired the gear and something else broke. I did not do the second repair. Of course that could be a simple coïncidence, I'll never know.

BTW I would not recommend Brother either. It is very picky about paper. Have to use good quality 90g or more exclusively.

My HP printer is configured the same way. If only to prevent it from phoning home.

Can you share steps on how you configured it

I'm old enough to remember buying a mouse and having to install the driver that came with the mouse on a floppy disk. Once the mouse market agreed to a single interface standard (and again when USB mice appeared) the world got simpler. Any computer you could buy would just work with whatever mouse you happened to plug into it. You only needed a custom driver if your mouse had lots of extra buttons that no-one really needed.

I'm a little surprised that the same thing didn't happen to printers. I could imagine around 2005, Microsoft including a generic printer driver with Windows XP. This way, you could plug in any printer and it would just work, as long as the printer implemented that generic printing protocol, even if it were alongside their own printer interface.

Plug in printer. Windows detects device with generic printer interface. User prints document. Document comes out. User happy.

Oh sure, the printer would come with a CD that includes software that enables the "special features" of the printer. Digital cameras did this too. (Rule #1 of buying a digital camera: Throw away the CD that comes in the box. Break the CD just in case you're tempted that something on CD might fix some trivial issue you're having.)

At the same time, I'm not surprised that never happened. Those "special features", like shouting at you for buying the wrong ink, are just way too important to not have installed on people's computers.

PCL and PostScript are standards. If you have a printer that supports it, some supported both, a generic driver is all you need, except for special features.

Entry-level printers didn't support these standards as it required what at the time was significant computing power on the printer side.

Soon they'll have a hidden 5G Internet connection that sends all printed material to the manufacturer, who will then sell the data to advertisers and the state.

Are there still any new printers (postscript, laser) that are reasonable? Black and white printing is sufficient.

There's an XKCD for that: https://xkcd.com/416/

Also, actual example of a smart TV connecting to an unprotected WiFI: https://web.archive.org/web/20210912135232/https://forum.dev...

I wish ours connected to any wifi?

I have a strong feeling this is somehow related to our local office network, but... any wifi printers we have never 'wake on lan'. If I reboot the printer, it's connected. 30-60 minutes later, it will not respond to any network commands. It's on, and you can go insert USB stick to print, or make a copy on it, and it says it has an IP address, but it's essentially 'dead'. Although it has 'wake on LAN' set (or whatever the setting is).

Brother, but same issue with HP before that (and... someone else reports similar with their printer in their office too). But we have a dozen people plus more devices on the wifi every day without incident. Just something about the printers we've had over the last few years.

Have changed wifi routers at least once during this period as well to no avail.

Wake on LAN means that you can wake the device from sleep mode by sending it a special WoL packet; I'm not quite following how that's related to your problem?

It's not 'sleeping' in the sense that the printer is 'down' or what not. It's 'on', but no one can ever send print jobs over wifi until the printer is reboot. That's the closest thing I can think of though - is it in some 'sleep' mode and just can't talk over the network because of that? It's been frustrating, and has happened over multiple printers, so it seems it's 'my network' but... absolutely no idea how to fix it. End goal would be 'leave printer on for 3 days and still be able to print to it whenever needed without having to reboot printer'. Doesn't seem like it would be that hard of a request, but... no dice.

They already add hidden tracking dots to documents: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machine_Identification_Code

I don't know how this is legal without informing the user. But that's the case with a lot of censorship/surveillance technology - they not only want to keep surveil/censor, they want to do so while keeping users in the dark about it.

Or use it themselves. They can just print little tailored ads while you're printing based on your print history.

Not too far out of the question the more i think about it. Remember when we used to print directions and they were often littered with ads intermingled with the steps.

I remember business folks throwing out/"recycling" several pages of scam ads faxed to them overnight, every morning. It's not the same thing but it's the same result.

This is why I've never voluntarily owned a printer. Well, never actually owned one at all. My father got a bit frustrated that I didn't have a home printer and gifted one to my wife. It was used a couple of times.

If I have something I need to print, I print it at work or at the library. Happens less than once a year. I don't need my own printer.

I agree mostly — most days the most action my printer gets is printing out amazon return labels.

However we have an MFC and we scan items fairly often.

How on earth is this relevant to the post?

I have nothing but bad things to say about Brother. I will never buy another one.

Last purchase was a $350 multifunction color laser printer that stopped turning on. I was just over the one year warranty and no support from Brother and their authorized service centers want to put me on a commercial support plan. I bought it for my wife, a teacher, because the school copiers were always broken or unavailable.

HP makes shitty printers but they will actually help you get something replaced in my experience.

I have an HL2270DW monochrome laser that’s been a workhorse for the last decade for my family. It’s got network support and duplexing.

Brother must have jumped the shark lately.

It had no problems printing on random toner (or I have been lucky), and I have extended its useful lifespan by running CUPS for AirPrint support on a home server. It seemed like one of those legendary products at the time I bought it.

I think companies will bring on star engineers from time-to-time to build brand goodwill, and then let the bean-counters loose that will tie up loose ends.

Until they stop making the fusers for your model in 3 years... Ask me how I know.

Kyocera was recommended below...

I will either buy epson or kyocera I think. Do you have a recommendation?

I've got a Brother laser printer that's probably old enough to vote now. It's impressive that it's lasted this long, but the whole business model of printing is so rotten I still wonder how much I want it around when the toners have run completely dry. On top of the installation being a mess.

I've seen that companies like Brother make dedicated shipping label printers, and I guess that's what I realistically would use my printer for the most.

Brother's clearly doing horrible stuff, but printers also seem like a terrible business model when you ship products that live forever without maintenance beyond refilling the paper tray and toner.

If only the e-ink display technology weren't encumbered by so many patents, maybe that's what we'd be reading most things on now instead.

Same for me. I think I was introduced to Brother printers in 2006, and bought my first then. That HL-2140 is still kicking, although it doesn't do much nowadays (a digital office, as it turns out, needs paper hard copies quite infrequently!)

A MFC I bought a couple years later is still going strong.

Well that's just awful. I own 2 Brother printers because I thought their management wasn't garbage like HP. I don't know what I'll do when one breaks.

Wow, if this comment is to be believed, the quality of Brother printers has seriously gone downhill:



Another data point: I have been using a Brother inkjet multifunctional printer with high-capacity ink cartridges for ~five years now, it has no problems with third party ink, and it has worked perfectly from day one. My home office is apparently quite challenging for an inkjet printer, because it's located directly under the roof, so temperatures can get quite high in the summer, which the Epson printer I had before couldn't handle - it constantly had white lines in the printouts. No problem with the Brother.

Did you read the post?

> I have an MFC-3750 that’s been running perfectly with Non-OE ink for more than a year now. The W1.56 firmware update, however, disabled the automatic color registration feature.

Ok... so if I need a printer, that won't fuck me with stuff like this, what should I buy now? Except HP of course, and now Brother

You'll have to buy a pen and use it to trace out the stuff on your screen by holding a piece of paper up to it. Until they see this hack and the system blurs the screen whenever it senses third party pens being used.

If only there was some body that could pass laws that would prevent companies from doing such things. You know, like how phones have to use common charger cables.

I appreciate the advice but be careful speaking so openly about it, the ink cabal is watching.

This is not similar at all to phone charger cables. My iPhone cables, which are now being made illegal by the EU, work perfectly (including the third-party ones).

If Apple made third party cables not work or work poorly it would be the same. But now they can't do that even if they wanted to.

I would be happy to have to throw out ink cartridges I currently use due to a law change if it meant that forever onwards I knew I could buy third party ink and use it without issues. This would also have the effect of lowering OEM ink prices because they would have to compete. Free markets only work when there is competition.

> If Apple made third party cables not work or work poorly it would be the same.

Indeed, if the situation were different, it would be the same as this one, but it’s not.

Are you in favor of printers with proprietary ink or phones with proprietary cables which can be sold at exorbitant margins or what about toasters with proprietary bread? I think this is bad myself, but you are free to differ.

Countries need to be able to do this, you know, to disconnect all printers and screens in Russia during war.

Not sure about the laser side, but for inkjets, the Epson EcoTank line is the best at not fucking you - it uses ink bottle refills, no cartridges in sight.

I bought one a few months ago, about £200, because of exactly this sort of crap going on here. I didn't want to go the compatibles route, and the cartridges are so small in capacity anyway. It's been good so far, and I've been printing roughly once a week so it has been ok. I have kids so I've been photocopying pages from their colouring books etc for them to colour in and keep the books themselves clean, which means it gets fairly regular use.

I'm tempted to set up something in my home automation to print a "test" page every week or two, just to make sure it doesn't get clogged. Given the couple of feet of tubing between the tanks and the head, I suspect once that gets dried/gunked/blocked, it's game over.

I take it you have not heard about the waste ink pad counter? Once that is up, you either have to buy a new printer or take it to a service center.


> Why not just make the Ink Pads a user-replaceable item? > Implementing this type of a design would result in more expensive printers. Most users would not benefit from such higher costs because their printers will never reach the Parts End of Life message.

This reads like actual gaslighting. Most users will never reach parts end of life? How is that even possible? Do most users buy a new ecotank printer and throw away their old one every year?

Would be really nice if someone reverse-engineered the maintenance program and allowed a reset of this idiot-light.

It has been done before, there are reverse engineed tools to reset the counter (though you should clean out our replace the pad too).

Are you sure it's really "small in capacity"? I was curious so I opened one of the cartridges my printer reported as empty. There was still plenty of ink in it...

The cartridge Epson's I've had were listed as 5ml cartridges, compared to the 100ml tanks my EcoTank has, that's the comparison I'm making.

I got it. I should put ONLY there. It doesn't matter how much the capacity was, the fact was when I opened it after the printer reported cartridge exhausted, the foams inside were still soaked with ink.

Oh, yeah, I'm sure the manufacturer excuse is that they need a bit extra to ensure print quality; whether or not that's true, ink cartridges of this kind are just a racket.

I'm soooo glad consumer 3d printing has avoided it this far and hopefully the momentum keeps up even as the technology advances.

With previous Epson inkjets they've made me to print head alignment, nozzle declogging etc almost every.single.time I turned on the device.

Does the EcoTank do this too?

Mine doesnt do much of anything when turned on, just takes a couple of minutes to connect to wifi.

I had one, looks good at first, but a few months on, the inkjet is just stuck with ink

I have an ecotank monochrome epson, it's been fine for a few years now.

that said, they don't seem to like to sit. if I go for awhile without printing I need to do a cleaning more so than conventional inkjets, but i'm okay with that tradeoff, it's nice just refilling with ink.

also the software/driver package on Windows sucks, but unless you're doing firmware upgrades then why bother installing it, anyway.

A separate bottle with pure h20 would be perfect for a post print clean.

Far cheaper, and better for the environment, than using ink for cleaning.

> Except HP of course

Well, just as another data point... I've been using a HP LaserJet Pro M402dne for the last two years, and it's solid. I should point out it's not colour, and Ethernet (not wifi). Also prints fine from Apple and Android devices in the family through the network.

Before that, I struggled along with inkjets before finally giving up. I remember having an urgent document to print in mono, had a new black XL cartridge installed, and it refused to print until I went out and got some yellow too. So for a while, I've been telling anyone prepared to listen that inkjets are a scam.

Anyhow, the LaserJet came with a starter toner cartridge. I also got a 9000 page XL toner cartridge around the same time. Two years later, I'm still on the starter toner cartridge. For an intermittent user, it's really great. Inkjets have often dried up on me if there's significant time between prints.

Looking at sites such as this, the model that I use also works with compatible toner cartridges : https://www.tonergiant.co.uk/model/HP-LaserJet-Pro-M402dne-t...

I've also got an Eco-Tank, and so does my mother. Ink is so much cheaper that way that I'm not even tempted to buy generics, but there's nothing else stopping me from doing it.

Printers in general suck, but... Canon? Haven't had any headaches since I switched to them from HP. Then again, since it has been a few years, it's possible that they too went downhill since.

Canon isn't as bad, but it's headed that way.

Driver and firmware quality have declined in recent years.

I'm a tech person, and it took about three hours to set up the wireless Canon I bought a couple of months ago. When the thing has an error, it displays a QR code that just links to a PDF of the printed installation manual that it came with. Not helpful.

It also won't connect to eero routers because of a bug in the printer firmware, combined with eero removing the ability to have different SSIDs for 2 and 5Ghz networks.

I wonder if this is an actual crime = vandalising your printer. It is not the inferiority of the ink = make prints bad consequentially, they are taking command and making it act against your best interest. Gotta be class action in there...

Time for an open hardware printer manufacturer? Or more lobbying for right-to-third-party-ink protection (including not making the quality worse) ?

It is surprinsigly hard to move paper the way a printer does it. The easiest way for DIY would be to use a continuous roll of paper and a very thin pen on a 3d printer like stepper motor, like older dot matrix printers.

If it fits the quality you need, I think a plotter is actually the best option; the FOSS ones seem to just take arbitrary pens for ink and there's a fair few projects implementing open source plotters that seem to get decent results.

Printer hardware is very specific, so you don't have generic versions of everything, defacto standards and official/unofficial documentation like you do in other DIY-able fields like 3D printers and CNC. The best you can do is buy replacements or salvaged parts for existing {HP,Canon,Epson} printers and spend months reverse engineering them. This will not only cost you more than buying a very nice new printer, but will suffer from the same availability issues every project depending on parts that aren't regularly for sale.

Is there a printer that isn't a proprietary ink dispensing jail?

I'm with current knowledge and tech it should be possible to print your own printer?

Epson EcoTank, pretty hard to lock out other vendors when your supply is delivered as a liquid.

Problem is that the heads clog up quite often. I had to replace mine recently. Oh, and they spew so much ink in the cleaning cycle that the pad got soaked up in 2 years.

The service would cost 1/3 the price of a new printer so I visited some shady sites to find a one-time service mode reset code.

As soon as the ink starts spilling out I'm tossing it in the garbage and never buying another printer again.

How often do you print? I have read those things need to be run very often to keep them from clogging or breaking down.

Rarely. Like a few pages once a month - if even then. And sometimes I need to print pages upon pages, which need to be in color.

Was thinking of getting a color laser printer.

you can have some sensors that test whatever physical property of the liquid (spectrum, electrical and thermal conductivity, viscosity,...) and turn off if it's not in the range of the genuine product.

Not impossible, but pretty hard.

Not so hard to defeat such sensors by making a matching product (which should be the goal anyway for printer ink). It would then be an arms race with third party vendors and your own internal ink and sensors to make a more consistent product yourself with better and better sensors.

It's possible to design print heads that are warped over time by ink that's not exactly like the official ink. At least, that's what I suspect killed my last (literally) Canon inkjet. There are a lot of rumours online about that practice.

And that would be entirely acceptable, perhaps even desirable, since it would be only be verifying the quality of the Ink rather than locking out competition even when the competition has a product of sufficient (or even superior) quality.

Yeah I'm struggling. Last 15 years I bought £50 multifunction brother or canon printers with separate ink cartridges and fake ink for a £1 a cartridge. Wore the heads out in about five years, repeat. Now they seem to have disappeared, all the cheap canons have combined colour ink cartridges not separate. A colour laser multifunction is expensive and may have pricey toner too. People here seem to like the Epson Ecotanks but the reviews say they struggle on anything but thin paper. The canons megatank look a bit better but still £200 for a fairly basically built printer. You really need wifi for airprint as its not clear that OSX will have much usb printer support in future. Which leaves you paying £250 for something like a G650 megatank Canon. I partly blame the home printer market shrinking due to everyone going paperless but suddenly being faced with paying more for a printer than I did for my desktop PC is irritating. (I did suggest a basic laser but everyone said nooo we need colour and copying).

> You really need wifi for airprint as its not clear that OSX will have much usb printer support in future.

Or you just connect a raspberry pi to the printer.

> You really need wifi for airprint as its not clear that OSX will have much usb printer support in future.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding the complexity of printers (actually, almost certainly I am), but isn't OSX support on printers just "let the manufacturer handle it"?

I'd imagine the least amount of effort they could do is support postscript via USB and leave it at that...

Why do you think OS X will remove USB printer support in the future? I can't find any articles about that or anything hinting at that on the CUPS release notes.

I may be wrong, and its poorly phrased, but when a new version of OSX has required updated printer drivers I've had the impression that manufacturers have been less inclined to provide updated drivers. Generally the answer given is use airprint. But if you saved 30 bucks buying the non wifi printer that doesn't do you much good... So if I buy the non wifi model will it still be usable in a few OSX versions/years? I think it may be a lottery but I may be wrong. Airprint looks like a more generic standard that won't require you do get updated software from the manufacturer.

Buy an EPSON. Apart from the fact they have separate ink cartridges for each colour, they also don't act like satan.

They don't let you change the waste ink pads. Once that counter is up, either into the trash or to a service center.


Epson is refreshingly frank on that page.

> Why not just make the Ink Pads a user-replaceable item?

> Implementing this type of a design would result in more expensive printers. Most users would not benefit from such higher costs because their printers will never reach the Parts End of Life message.

In other words, if the pads are done, then chances are the rest of your printer is worn out.

Thanks for posting that link. It makes me feel better about Epson.

I had an Epson printer in college, it screwed me over one night where I had to print a paper to turn in the next day by refusing to print some black text because the cyan cartridge was running low.

I understand this is standard practice from all printer makers now, but it really turned me off the brand.

Don't. You need to have all colour ink cartridges even if you only print B&W, and if you don't print often, you will need to replace the cartridges after some time anyway. I don't know if that's because the ink dries out or if they have some artificial time limit, but I had to replace all cartridges every half year or so while I think I printed only a few dozen pages in that time, almost all black & white.

I replaced it with a €140 Brother B&W laser printer/scanner a year or two ago and have been happy with it ever since. Sad to hear they turned evil too.

> they also don't act like satan

Give them time. Market forces will compel them.

If any onevof the colors runs out, does it still print in b/w? Or, even worse- there is a printer i lnow that won't scan to usb if there's a color missing.

Except the nature of inkjet printing makes it just look inferior to the crispness of laser.

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