25 March 2011

printer frustration

I seem to be collecting printers. All the same model. I now have three Epson Artisan 725 printer/scanner/copiers... temporarily.

I wanted a new printer capable of producing top quality photographs. Initially I bought an Epson NX510 at Future Shop but that went back when its images were generously supplied with dark horizontal lines. No amount of head cleaning or realignment would stop this. I've had three very good Epsons over the past decade so decided to persevere and climbed the range to the afore-mentioned Artisan after some research.

I got a good price from B&H Photo in New York and a large box was promptly delivered three days later. Exciting stuff! Except that this model too produced unsightly horizontal lines until I used the highest quality settings. The results are great but it is officially now the slowest printer I have owned, despite advertising to the contrary.

After three weeks the printer stopped picking up paper. It clicked, rattled and shook and generally tried its hardest but the paper wouldn't feed. During a thorough inspection I discovered that the CD tray wouldn't descend either. There's a little tray which is supposed to glide out at the touch of a button allowing a CD to be drawn into the innards for direct printing.

By now I'm cross.

The Epson help line is conveniently located three time zones away on the west coast of America. After consulting world maps and time charts I calculated the correct calling time and spoke to a representative. After the usual efforts to identify an easy solution she gave up and announced a "new" one would be with me in the post. Excellent, and what's more there would be a pre-paid shipping label to send the faulty one back.

The "new" one arrived the very next day but my excitement soon evaporated. The box was marked 'refurbished' and had ominous damage to one corner - as if it had been dropped from a fair height. Sure enough, when I opened up the package I found a panel had sprung off the underside of the unit, not a repairable thing. To make matters worse the refurbished unit had clearly seen some action. It was scuffed and scratched and was leaking ink through the new hole in the bottom.

I wasted no time in calculating Pacific Time before grabbing the phone and stabbing the Epson numbers in. Another very helpful and apologetic rep listened to the sad story. I told him even if this refurbished unit had been in working order I would have been heavily down on the deal as the one I am sending back is, outwardly at least, in pristine condition. I want a brand new replacement.

This required the approval of his superiors. It took three minutes to arrange that but he came back on the line all chuckles and reassurance.

Yesterday our FedEx deliveryman came with yet another large box and a face loaded with deja vu. So... now I have three. I spent a while setting the latest one up because I cocked up the wireless settings at first. Uninstall failed but System Restore did the trick and I started again. Hooray, we're up and running.

All that remains now is for me to drive two thirty-five pound boxes to the FedEx office to get them out of my sight!

13 March 2011

rock on

These are covers from the first few vinyl albums I bought in the 1970's. I still own half of them and have all of them on CD in various formats. I occasionally play the Supertramp and Mott the Hoople but mostly they just take up shelf space. No matter, I not only listen to music, I collect it for the sake of collecting too.

Lately I have been ploughing through my Excel database and updating values (or at least replacement costs) for music. These days most mainstream CD albums can be bought for a tenner or less (ten Great British Pounds Sterling!) but I have plenty of less common pieces in my collection, maybe a quarter of which are no longer in print or at least not available in their original form.

Remember I'm talking about modern CDs here not crackling vinyl. You'd think the older something is the more costly it would be to replace... not so in the muic world. It's all about supply and demand. Sometimes an album is released with a limited print run and stocks disappear within a year. It's not always lesser-known bands this happens with. Take Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust" an album which has been around for almost 40 years and has seen more than a dozen releases with anniversary editions, remastering, new packaging and bonus tracks. In 2003 EMI put out a Super Audio CD version (SACD) which, as many will know, contains not only a stereo layer but also a 5.1 surround sound layer, all remixed using modern technology. Out of print for seven years, it will now set you back a cool $75.

It is alarming to find albums in my collection like Wizzard's "Eddy and the Falcons" commanding prices of $90, or Supertramp's live release "Is Everybody Listening" going for $40. The gorgeous Mott the Hoople Box set "Anthology" is impossible to find for under $200. The Libertines' 2003 single "Don't Look Back into the Sun" sells on eBay for $50. Ian Hunter's releases sold to a small cult market and I have a dozen or more that show up from resellers on Amazon at over $50 and his poorly received 1981 two-disc set "Short Back and Sides" can't be replaced for under $120. Green on Red's pairing of "Gas Food Lodging" with their eponymous first album will cost $40. Even mediocre reviews and ratings don't matter, it's rarity that counts.

Of course none of this is in the same league as pink vinyl pressings, picture discs or sleeve art printed in reverse by mistake but nevertheless time is passing and the seemingly ordinary is slowly becoming extraordinary.

05 March 2011

snow and ice in Charlottetown

This is our apartment building, under siege from the toughest winter in quite a few years. The weatherman, "Boomer" Gallant tells us over four feet of snow has fallen. It has been cold and the deep snow has compacted under its own weight bringing down roofs. Schools have been closed several times.

Here are some more photographs of Charlottetown in the grip of winter. Some of the ice formations clinging to roofs and eaves are spectacular.

The streets have been ploughed almost daily, sweeping ever higher banks to the roadside, filling people's gardens and driveways. Miniature ploughs scuttle along the sidewalks resulting in walls of frozen snow separating pedestrians from traffic. Intersections have taken on an unfamiliar look with mounds of ploughed snow blocking views. You have to poke your nose out quite far to see if it's safe to pull away. Car tyres grind against chunks of brown ice clinging like granite barnacles to wheel arches.

I took this snap of the corner of my laptop screen just before hurrying down to the bins in my shorts and T-shirt. It took my breath away!