Printer Ink Study Project 5

Nearing the end of this fun project.  Everyone is jealous that I was selected and that I got to print so many pictures.  (I didn’t tell them that as part of the study many pictures are the same, just looking for differences over time.)

This week’s project included printing a Power Point presentation on both printers and comparing.  Both printers did a good job with the colors.  I saw the persistent banding on the refill prints, when looking very carefully, but they would have been acceptable for a project.  The bigger thing was that I ran out of black ink half way through the last page.  The print below is the HP ink.  If you look closely there are some lines but they are on the scanner, not the print.  So, two things: First, I have used twice as much ink during this project, to date.  There is still ink in the HP printer. (I just looked–slightly under half of the color is left and 90% of the black).  The second thing is that my frugal nature would not generally allow me to print a picture with so much black background.  Though it does look good.

In addition to the Power Point I printed my every week photos and did not notice much difference in quality.   The green of the refill is definitely darker…would it bother me?  Probably not.  The streaking or banding lines would bother me more.

Also this week we were asked to print out any business jobs we might have.  One of my most particular customers (okay, my mom) asked me to print up some flyers for their raffle.  All the prints came out similarly.  I felt the Refill ink was a little more blurry in some of the small detail areas.  Though you can see the text on the photo came out crisp on both pictures.  Notice the red text though. The photo on the left is HP ink. I picked a red based on the quilt color and the HP print is very much like my choice.  On the right, though, the Refill ink color is much more brown.  I’m not really sure why as the quilt colors, particularly the reds look similar. 

Now, as you admire this quilt you may be thinking it would be fun to have.  Give me a shout and I’ll set you up with some raffle tickets.  In fact, if you win and live out of state, I’ll spring for the shipping.  The drawing is in February coordinated with our state centennial celebration.   Your donation will go to help the club find more prospecting sites out in the Quartzsite area.

So to recap:  This week I ran out of black ink.  I can purchase HP brand for about $30 a cartridge (or less as I have seen lots of 20% off ads).  Each color refill cost $15, the black is $10.  Plus three trips to the store.  And don’t forget that one of the color cartridges had contaminated colors.  I thought I was being smart saving money with the refill cartridges but  this side by side challenge has showed me the error of my ways.  So week 5 score HP 5 = Refill 0

The Goal

 Have you ever set a goal for yourself, then wondered how in the world you would accomplish it?  We all do.  Sometimes the task is huge and maybe we’re not quite as knowledgeable as we want others to know.  But we don’t want to admit it.  Unrealistic…or attainable…  Right???  Okay, maybe it hasn’t happened to you…but it has happened to me.

Years ago we learned about an interesting program for children with special needs.  It involved a unique interaction between the kids and dolphins.  Dolphins are smart.  They are able to sense things that we humans sometimes miss.  Dolphins (you’ve seen it with some dogs) pick up on a persons ability and feed on it.  They’ll be gentle with the fragile older woman and rambunctious with the teen.  People realized that dolphins have this uncanny way of sensing things and saw that disabled people were also relating to the dolphins in a good, positive way.  They took it a step further and found that often disabled children would be particularly motivated to “work” if the reward was a treat with a dolphin.  Speech and occupational therapists found this work/reward system to be successful in many children.

Back to Matthew.

After we learned about the program I called and got more information.  It sounded like great fun.  Yes, it was expensive but maybe we could see some benefit.  We got on their waiting list.  The wait was long…I’d almost forgotten about it when, in the spring two years later, I got a letter inviting us to schedule a in the summer.  I was so excited!  Something fun.  It might help Matthew.  We can call it a vacation.

Until I read the qualifications:  Cannot be afraid of water.  Uh, oh.

Let me just tell you that Matthew has a healthy respect for water.  He doesn’t take a shower because he doesn’t like water on his head.  He never gets too close to the edge of a lake or river, always choosing to throw rocks from ‘way back there’…  And swimming lessons???  Yeah, right.  We tried.  Many years we tried.  Always the same, screaming kid, scared of the water.

I know you’re laughing thinking, “Good grief, that should have been that.  But the pictures???”  And you’d be right.  That should have been that. 

But we said, “Let’s do it.  We’ll schedule for the end of summer.”  Talk about setting a goal.  I was not sure we would make it.  Still, we’d give it our best shot.

Luckily, Phoenix has a special pool that offers lessons to those with special needs.  I signed Matthew up.  I think they would only let us sign up for a month at a time.  Day one came and we got to the pool.  Matthew had been there before and it hadn’t been pretty.  In his usual manner he turned around and grabbed on to me wrapping his arms and legs better than any octopus.  I would say his voice was loud and boisterous but shrill and shrieking would be more correct.  I love that pool.  It’s 5ft at the deepest so the entangled two of us walked out to mid pool.  When I finally managed to get him unwrapped he discovered he’d grown.  He was standing in the middle with water only to his waist!  Score one for mom.

But learning to swim was a different story.  No, he did not want to put his face in the water.  No, he did not think it was fun to float on his back.  No, he was not going to jump off the side of the pool.  The teachers were good.  They worked patiently with him each day.  Day after day.  Every two weeks he was evaluated.  I think you had to reach Level 3 to be an independent swimmer.  He was at Level 1.  May ran into June and June into July.  One thing I have learned about Matthew is that the more times he does something the closer he is to mastery.  (I know…that’s the same for most of us…)  We decided that once a day wasn’t enough and began going back to the pool in the evening.  Rebecca also got some lessons and showed us how it could be done.  We were well tan that year.  We knew all the lifeguards and teachers by name, along with their class schedule and future goals.  But still Matthew was barely putting his face in the water.  Still screaming.  Still scared. 

August rolled around and I was pretty worried.  He had made progress but was still at Level 2.  Should I call the dolphin place?  Dear God…hear my prayer…  Had I really set a goal we could not reach? 

Then it happened.  We’re in the pool (as usual).  Matthew screaming and flailing (as usual).  But then the teacher stepped away.  HE WAS SWIMMING!  Oh my goodness!  It was so exciting.  As soon as Bob got off work we went back to show off.  It wasn’t a fluke.  He was swimming! 

One week later we were on the plane to Florida.  The size of the lagoon where the dolphins lived was pretty intimidating.  I won’t lie and tell you the first day or two was easy but he did it.  He worked hard, tried to say the words, and loved his rewards.  On the last day I overheard one of the trainers telling another that the dolphin wasn’t listening to him.  He was right, the dolphin was responding to Matthew.

So if you have what might seem an insurmountable task think of Matthew.  A lot of patience.  A lot of effort.  And a super lot of determination.  Amazing what we can do.

Paper Versus Digital

Books, that is.

This week I was asked my opinion about differences using text books and digital books.  It’s an interesting question and I hope you’ll toss in your thoughts.  Coincidentally, this topic came up over the weekend with Rebecca.  Some of the medical schools have all their books on an iPad; some still use texts.  We also hear about public schools making the switch to digital books and know it’s a matter of time until everyone has a Star Trek style book reader.

Our family has had some experience using digital books both for learning and for pleasure reading.

One observation: Some people, like my parents, absorb everything they read and can have great discussions about a book.  Some people, like me, zoom through the book and barely remember the title…even if it’s a good book.  I need to hold something in my hand and take notes… (Come to think of it that’s how I watch TV too…no wonder I can watch reruns of NCIS over and over and think they are new episodes.)  In other words, learning styles vary and so will what works best for each of us.

But back to the books.

As a homeschool family we were able to evaluate what worked and what didn’t when it came to teaching the kids.    For Rebecca we used a curriculum that could be purchased in workbook form or digital.  We chose the computerized versions for a number of classes.  What I observed was that when the information was detailed and needed memorization (for example: dates and facts of history) it was hard to do on the computer.  Yes, we could highlight portions but it seemed more difficult to retain the specifics. Often we would print out chapters giving Rebecca the ability to highlight, circle and otherwise note things on the paper.  Maybe it was using another part of the brain?  It would make sense.  In college Rebecca had a similar experience when one of the science books was unavailable except as a download.  I don’t remember how many of the chapters she printed but I know we went through a lot of paper that semester.

One more example is my own experience when I do continuing education studies.  Done online I find myself, not reading the information, but instead looking for an answer.  Digital is great for doing key word searches.  But when done this way I’m not sure how much of the material I’ve retained.

We have also experienced the plus side of digital books.  I’m sure you, like me, remember history books that were outdated the moment they went to print. Today’s digital books can be updated with just a click.  In addition, it’s great to have thousands of books at your finger tips.  And, importantly, they cost less than paper texts and no more backache from carrying all those heavy books.  I also love that digital text books often have ability for videos and other interactive media.  Continued improvement of the text to speech readers is exciting.  Read aloud information may be processed better by auditory learners.

Looking back at pleasure reading might give more insight.  Do you love to wander through the library or book store just looking for the right book or would you rather pick a book based on a photo or description and download it for instant reading?  Does the idea of a dog eared paperback tucked in your back pocket for later reading get your attention or would you rather pull out your ebook reader and with a swish of your finger return to the last page you read?

Perhaps the question is more philosophical than anything.  What is the comfort level of the user?  Those of us who have grown up flipping pages and visually working our way through chapters may not want to make the switch (or do you?)  Kids who start with computers and now touch screen tablets may very well view all this differently. 

Still, I hate to think that paper books will become antiques like mimeographs.  What do you think?

Printer Ink Study Part 4

Here we are at the half way point in this study.  This week it was recommended that we check ink levels. Was I surprised.  The refill ink cartridges were empty!  The HP color cartridge was half full and the black more than 80%. I expect this was due to the many cleanings I had to do after the cartridge stopped printing.

  • (How did I get it working? When it became apparent that additional cleaning wasn’t doing anything but draining the tank I cleaned the bottom of the cartridge with a wet towel and I lifted the stick on cover over the holes in the top in case it had an air bubble. Not sure which was the answer but it did work.) 

Because I had problems with that original cartridge the HP testers sent me a “new” refill cartridge.  I figured I was in good shape to continue without a trip to the store…until I printed a sample page. 

The top row is the new refill cartridge.  The bottom row is an earlier sample with the original refill cartridge and what the colors are supposed to be. Obviously, something serious is wrong.  My guess, some significant contamination.  Yikes!

So…that plan didn’t work and I instead took my original refill back to the store and had if filled again.  Back in business.

It’s important that you realize I am the queen of cheap.  Just call me Your Highness With the Pink Stained Fingers.  I have filled my own cartridges for years.  My fingers were always pink, yellow and blue at Christmas and it wasn’t from making cookies.  I had accepted that my refilled cartridges might not work as well but until now had not seen the actual difference in quality.  Not to mention I have now spent as much on the refill cartridges as I would have with the HP brand.  Interesting, isn’t it?

So today’s project:  Print some selected photos and compare colors to what our mind thinks they should be.   Armed with a new refill cartridge I found the images to be very similar in quality.  Grass was the same green, snow the same white, sky the same blue.  The photo collage, from my Road Less Taken album, below demonstrates how close the colors were.  The top photo is HP.  I thought the picture of the woods in the upper right were maybe a little more true in the refill print, similarly I thought the clouds in the bottom right were darker as on the refill.  And that’s what I was evaluating.  What I also noticed was that with these scenery pictures I could see better detail throughout the HP prints than the Refill.  Just a little more blurring of colors.

So the week 4 memory color is a slight edge to the Refill Cartridge though the overall win again goes to HP, due to the whole crummy refill cartridge deal.

Printer Ink Study Project 3

 Week 3 projects for the Ink Challenge were to damage printed photos. Do you have a cat?

We have two. And on more than one occasion a nosy cat poking around my work area has dumped over a glass of water.  I could easily imagine a drink being spilled on my photos. I expected that if this was to happen the photo would be ruined.

For the test today I printed out pictures using the HP brand ink on HP photo paper and compared them to the Refill Ink printed on brand X photo paper.

  • Test 1: Sprinkle water on both photos; wait 60 seconds and blot off. Within 15 seconds I could see the brand X paper begin to swell and in 30 seconds there was yellow ink leaking on to the paper towel. When I blotted the photos after one minute the HP looked as good as new while brand X was warped where ever the water sat. Brand X did dry and the color appeared slightly darker in the areas that had gotten wet. 
  • Test 2: Dunk new photos into a bowl of water; then let dry naturally. (Somehow this seemed like what I would find after the cats ran through.) HP photo curled initially on the sides but when dry was nearly flat with no water marks. Brand X photo warped and curled and dried this way. The photo below does not show the 3 dimensional warping of the paper as well as I’d hoped. Trust me, it is obvious. Also, note the difference in colors. Print on left is HP brand, the print on right is brand X and the colors were obviously muddied after their dip in the water.
  •  For fun I also dumped some coffee with creamer onto an HP photo. I waited 30 seconds and attempted to blot the coffee. It was sticky and did not easily wipe so I wet a towel with water and then wiped the coffee off the photo with only a small mark. I also used my finger nail and a file to try and scratch the photo. My finger nail made barely a mark on either brand print. The file did scratch the prints but the color remained on both.

I found the results this week to be very surprising. We have printed many, many pictures over the years and I have never thought about the brand of photo paper. It does make a difference. Week 3 = HP wins handily!