Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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February 2002, Week 4 -- Ink by the Barrel




   From a reader in Minnesota we got some great information on how to cut color printing costs to a few cents a page. It's primarily for Epson inkjet printers but these are a common choice for printing photos. I'm sure this will void the warranty but here goes.

   The problem is the cartridges. In the past we've noted that buying color ink by the cartridge comes to an outrageous total price of more than $7,000 a gallon. Printing a color photo using Epson cartridges costs 94 cents a page. Costs are similar for other photo color printers.

   You can cut that cost to about 6 cents a page by buying inking systems that link bottles of ink to the cartridges through surgical tubing. When the cartridges in the printer run out of ink, you flip a switch to refill them, and the printer then thinks you've installed a new cartridge.


   Such systems are not sold by any of the color inkjet companies, who make little or no profit on the printers but plenty selling the ink cartridges. Continuous inking systems for nearly all Epson models are available from The Stock Solution, a reputable stock photo company at  for $125-$250. (To get there, click on "inks.")


   The ink itself is a separate purchase. Four-ounce bottles sell for $16.25. Half-litres are $60, full litres (a little over a quart) $120. You obviously have to do a lot of printing volume to justify the cost of the inking system and the bulk ink (which is not made by Epson, by the way), but if you do, this really rips the cost.


Color lasers





   For the past few months we have been running a Minolta color laser printer, and because this kind of printer is dropping sharply in cost (the Minolta we were using has a list price of $999) it's worth comparing it to color inkjets.

   Color laser printers have lower per page costs than inkjets (unless you use the continuous inking systems described above) and much faster output. While even a fast inkjet printer takes half a minute to print a photo, a color laser take just a couple of seconds. Resolution is usually sharper as well.

   That's the good news. The bad news is that color saturation is kind of pale and washy. If you want prints with rich, vibrant color, inkjet is still the way to go.

   By the way, you can save money on laser cartridge refills too, but you have to burn a hole in the cartridge with a soldering iron to refill it yourself. This gives many people pause. It's much cleaner to buy replacement laser ink cartridges from third party makers. For instance, a Lexmark Optra cartridge sells for around $250 from Lexmark, but the same cartridge new from Verbatim, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi, sells for about half that. Remanufactured cartridges (not new) can be found at web sites like <> and  for much less.


Books: dot net to go


   Microsoft has introduced a new programming language and approach to the web called "dot net" (written as ".net"). This figures to be a biggie. It is meant to provide a universal way of dealing with the web. Among many other things it will cover the collection of "micro payments" for the use of services and software. Dot net is designed to work with Windows.

 Visual Basic .NET

   Behind it is the recognition that the delivery of software as we know it -- in boxes and on disks, will diminish and eventually disappear, to be replaced with programs on the worldwide web that will be used as needed and charged per use. Many other products will also be delivered on or through the web. (I noted with interest last week that the giant book dealer Barnes & Noble recently sold its subsidiary chain of software stores. There can be many reasons for selling off corporate divisions but the expectation they are likely to be wildly profitable in the future is rarely one of them.)


   Below is the first wave of new books on dot com; you can expect to see hundreds more.


-- "Teach Yourself Object-Oriented Programming with Visual Basic .Net in 21 Days," by Simon, Koorhan and Cox; $40 from Sams Books Sams is primarily a publisher of practical instruction books and is very good at it.



-- ".Net" and "VB .Net," two books by Gregory Brill; $20 each from Random House These are slim volumes for this business: about 200 pages, and a quick way to get answers to common questions. (Some of the books we've received on dot com have nearly 2,000 pages.)

-- "Visual Basic.NET, developer's headstart," by Jeffrey Shapiro; $25, Osborne/McGraw-Hill Heavy duty.



   The EZmeeting program we wrote about two weeks ago does not permit video conferencing. Everything else we said about it holds, but not that. How do mistakes like this happen? In the usual way. We were working with several programs at once and in making notes, mixed up the features of one with another. I really apologize for this, the worst mistake we've made in several years.


NOTE: Readers can search nearly four years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at or