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What does HP stand for? (#1165)

Topics/tags: Rants, technology

For the past month or so, whenever I’ve tried to print from my MacBook to Escher, the HP Color LaserJet 4700dn in the CS department, I’ve received an error message. Something like

HPDM Framework will damage your computer. This issue has been reported to Apple to protect other users. [1]

An interesting message, isn’t it? Not may damage, but will damage. And my Mac feels it necessary to report the error. For a brief moment, I thought Apple might contact me for followup. But no.

In any case, I could still print when I hit Ok, but it was annoying. And I suppose it was worrisome. Recently, I decided to deal with the issue.

So I did what any sensible person would do.

Can you guess what that is?

Are you sure?

That’s right; I visited the ITS Help Desk.

Seriously.

After all, that seems like something they would have seen before. Right?

Apparently not. At least not in that particular form. The helpful Help Desk denizen removed the printer from my list of printers and then re-installed it using the standard approach. If I recall correctly, that involved adding an advanced button, choosing LPD/LPR Host or Printer, and then entering a URL [2] like lpd://print/ESCHER.

Strangely enough, we got an error message while doing that. I think it read.

fax.backend will damage your computer. This error has been reported to Apple to protect other users.

We ignored it for the time being.

Unfortunately, adding that way meant that I didn’t get the appropriate printer driver. In most cases that doesn’t matter, but I use the manual feed a lot, so I wanted it. However, I couldn’t recall the kind of printer we had, so we left getting the printer driver as a task for another day.

When we hit the other day, I couldn’t find a good way to add a printer driver. And I also realized that using the print queue didn’t work. Why? Because Escher doesn’t have a print queue. We print to Escher directly as an IP printer.

And when I set up the printer with the driver …

I got the error again.

So I did the second thing folks naturally do when they have problems.

Can you guess what that is?

Are you sure?

That’s right. I did a Web search.

I discovered that this problem is not uncommon [3]. It has something to do with Apple paying attention to security and the signatures on the HP drivers going out of date. I didn’t read things too closely.

The primary recommendation was to install HP Easy Start, have it remove all the old drivers, and then have it re-install newer drivers. I tried that. But when I got to the part where it’s supposed to install a new driver, it told me to install HP Smart.

I suppose I should have asked ITS whether HP Smart is approved software. But, well, it seemed okay.

It wasn’t.

When I ran HP Smart, it gave me a blank window. I quit. I then couldn’t start it again. Three minutes later, my MacBook made a horrible sound, like all of the fans going on full blast, and then it shut down.

It took longer than normal to reboot.

But I’m not all that bright, so I tried again. I uninstalled HP Smart. I tried running it again. And, guess what? Blank screen. Wouldn’t restart. Horrible sound. Computer crashed.

Have I mentioned that I hate computers?

I removed it again. I decided to try the same task again at home, where we at least have a wireless HP printer. This time, HP Smart was happy to connect to that printer. But it didn’t install the HP Color LaserJet 4700 driver.

So I tried to find the driver. Amazingly, if you look on the HP site, the newest version of macOS they list is 10.12.2 (Sierra). I’m running 11.5.2 (Big Sur). I think there are at least two versions in between those two. Worse yet, the only driver I could find on the HP site was dated Nov 12, 2009. The odds were good that that one would produce the same error.

I kept looking. There were unofficial sites that claimed to have drivers, but I wasn’t sure whether I should trust such sites.

Finally, I found HP Printer Drivers for macOS on an Apple Site. Yay! Unfortunately, they were a 600MB download and a 1GB install. I guess they assume no one wants to install just one or two drivers.

Believe it or not, but with only a little more effort, I was able to get the driver installed and working. No, not with the ITS-suggested lpd strategy, but with a direct IP connection to the printer. And no error messages. At least I think there weren’t any error messages. I’m off campus, and it seems that I can’t print to on-campus printers, even if I try to connect over the VPN. I’ll have to try tomorrow.

Fingers crossed.

Two major crashes on my computer. Maybe three. I’ve lost count. Way too much of my time. Lots of frustration. Bad software. Have I mentioned that I hate computers?

Or these days, I Hate Printers.

At least now I know why it’s called HP.


Postscript: There were probably lessons in all of this. I’m not sure what they were.

I worry that HP was able to write software that could reliably crash my MacBook. That’s not just an issue of HP writing bad software; something is wrong with macOS if approved software can cause crashes so easily. I wonder whether I can figure out exactly what happened. Oh well, it’s not my responsibility and disassembling software is not my primary skill sets.

I’ve also learned that the software that companies write to make your life easier often makes your life harder. Yes, I realize that some users are not able to install a single printer driver manually. But forcing us to use software that doesn’t quite meet your anticipated use cases causes even bigger problems. Allow options!

Perhaps we should ask ITS to upgrade our twelve-year-old workhorse of a printer. But it still prints fine. And we have lots of cartridges for it. Replacing it seems wasteful. And it’s ITS; they might force us into the problematic PaperCut domain [4]. Best to let things stand, at least for the time being.

Should I report the software I installed to ITS? I suppose I should. Maybe tomorrow.


Postscript: In case it wasn’t clear, I found the Help Desk helper helpful. They didn’t quite solve my problem, but it looked like they had at the point I left the Help Desk. And they chose an appropriate solution within their knowledge base. That’s why Google it first was not one of the lessons above.


Postscript: Yes, I know that HP is named after Hewlett and Packard. However, given they’ve switched to the initials, I think we can be free to interpret them in other ways. No one thinks of 3M as a mining company anymore, do they?


[1] I managed to get rid of the error and no longer remember the exact details. I think the second half isn’t quite right.

[2] Should that be an url. I suppose it depends whether you pronounce it you are el or earl.

[3] I’m not sure why, but I prefer the double negative of not uncommon to the simpler common.

[4] On the other hand, there are certainly other printers on campus that don’t require PaperCut. Maybe we’d be okay.


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Version 1.2 of 2021-09-07.