Saturday, July 13, 2013

Duplex printing from OS X to a dessicated HP zombie

My humble DeskJet all-in-one was left in the Arizona desert for an entire year, and emerged slightly melted and dry but no worse for wear. Being obsessed with making marginal machines function, I've learned a few things in the last few days about printer operation.


1. Restoring ink cartridges

HP sells cheap printers and expensive cartridges, so it's nice not to throw away good ink. But what if it's been sitting for a long time, at high temperature?

According to WikiHow, immersion in hot water can restore ink flow. But once it starts flowing, you lose a lot. Plugging the business end of the cartridge into a steam kettle is more efficient. (Maybe not in terms of energy, though.) For best results, balance the cartridge in a roughly horizontal position. Check for leaking ink and remove when ready. I found that color ink likes to be steamed for a few minutes, perhaps to melt solidified contents. Black on the other hand quickly gets flowing, and should not be left on the kettle.

In my case, this process may be repeated daily or before each use. Mercifully the ink will run out relatively fast, and then you can go for a refill or replacement.


2. Two-sided printing in Mac OS X

Resurrecting sturdy hardware is easy, but printing on both sides is incredibly tricky on Mac OS X. The printer manual gave some general tips, which seemed to assume the software had a built-in process for double-sided printing. Not on the Mac; there's a two-sided printing option but it's greyed out. The relevant options in the print dialog are:

Layout → Reverse Page Orientation

Checking this box turns the page upside down in the printer output. For an inkjet printer, the default is already upside down, so this turns it right side up from your perspective. (I guess it's reversed from the printer's perspective. The bottom of the page comes out first.)

Paper Handling → Page Order

The options are Automatic, Normal, and Reverse. Normal causes the lowest-numbered page to emerge first from the printer, leading to a back-to-front document. Reverse means you get to turn the pages forward. Automatic equals reverse as far as I can tell. I cannot fathom what information the printer driver receives that would helpfully inform the automatic decision-making.

Paper Handling → Pages to Print

Options are Odd-only and Even-only. They managed not to make this one confusing.


The task at hand.

Once the process is finished, we should have a stack of papers in the output tray, with Page 1 right-side up and on top. Is that too much to ask? Maybe. Anyway, here is the algorithm.
  1. Print even pages, normal order, non-reversed orientation. The even pages come out backwards in every way, which is nice because all you did was change “automatic” to “normal.”
  2. If there are an odd number of pages in the document, add a blank sheet on top of the output. This will be the last page of the finished product.
  3. Move the half-printed stack from the output tray to the top of the input tray.
  4. Print odd pages, reverse order (or “automatic” if you like to tempt fate), reversed orientation.
  5. Hope for the best.
If an upside-down stack is acceptable, the process is slightly simpler.
  1. Print odd pages, reverse (i.e. correct) order, reversed orientation.
  2. Move the half-printed stack back to the input tray.
  3. Print even pages, normal (i.e. back-to-front) order, non-reversed orientation.
  4. If the document has an odd number of pages, retrieve the last page from the input tray.
I hope this saves someone out there a bunch of time, aggravation, and paper.


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