Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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November 2004, Week 1 -- We're Nearly Out of Ink Warnings



   Our "Minolta Magicolor" color laser printer is fed up with us. If it could sneer, we think it would.

   The first warning came last January. It informed us it was time to replace the yellow. We resisted and instead checked the box that said warn us again when it's down to zero percent. But we dutifully purchased a "high capacity" replacement yellow cartridge for $130 to be ready for the crucial moment when it came. Meanwhile, we were still getting great color prints.

   Three months later we got a screen message telling us our magenta toner was empty, and what's more -- it said our yellow was empty! The color prints still looked great but we figured, what the heck, in for a penny, in for a pound; we bought a $130 magenta replacement cartridge to go with the yellow sitting in the closet.


   So here we are in October, continuing to print hundreds of color pages with no problems. We don't get the "out of yellow" warnings anymore, but we still get "magenta toner empty" messages. In fact we get that message every time we start to print. We're tough, though, and remain stolidly indifferent to its pleas. We print whole pages filled with yellow and magenta that look fine. We're sure we'll be warned about a new color soon.


   All of which brings to mind again ... The Cost Of Ink!


   It's incredibly expensive to replace the cartridges for inkjet printers. The cost for replacement ink for our Hewlett Packard inkjet comes to a stunning $5,479 a gallon if you multiply it out from the fractional amounts in a cartridge. What a money maker that must be. In fact, not long ago we read a stock analyst's comment that he thought most of Hewlett Packard's profits came from ink cartridges. (And to think journalists are called "ink stained wretches.")


You can go home again


   One of the most common complaints we hear from readers is that some program doesn't work right anymore, even though it had been working just fine for years. This usually happens after loading a new program into the computer, often an antivirus checker of some sort. Well we're here to tell you it happens to us too.


   In fact, trouble began one day when we were doing the last column. Our XyWrite word processor, which has performed flawlessly for the last 25 years, suddenly wouldn't save anything we wrote. Unfortunately we didn't discover this until the column was finished and disappeared into the land of the lost. In fact we didn't notice until the second time, after we had written a new column and it too disappeared into "that bourn from which no column returns."

Go Back

   The only new program that had been installed since writing the previous column was a "trial version" of "Panda Antivirus." Trying to uninstall this took all day and then some, to no avail; it refused to die. So we finally resorted to Microsoft's weapon of mass destruction: "system restore."

   We recommend that readers do the same when persistent problems appear. In Windows XP or Me, go to the "Start" menu and select "programs," then "accessories." In that sub menu, select "system tools," and then click on "system restore." You will see a message asking you to select a past date as the point to which you'd like to restore. Select a date before you loaded the last new program and see if that solves the problem. This works about half the time, so don't expect miracles. It worked for us, though, and we rewrote the column a third time.


   If you don't have Windows XP or Me, you can use Norton's "Go Back" a nearly identical recovery program to restore your system. Find it at


Internuts: On the road with young and old.

--  This is the home site for what used to be called American Youth Hostels. The title is now Hosteling International USA. It's very popular with students, though you often do not have to be a student to use the hostels. Their hostel in Chicago, for example, is at the corner of Wabash and Congress streets, a noisy location but right downtown and close to museums, the main library, parks and the lakefront. Price there starts at $28.75.

--   Cheap places to stay for travelers almost anywhere in the world, including the USA. Some have age restrictions, though the range is wide. A private room for two in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago (a fun location) was currently listed for just $27. The site gives ratings for each hostel, graded by the people who stayed there.


-- This is the world's largest organization dedicated to hosteling for older adults. They have a newsletter and organize group trips as well as list hostels for individual travelers. Prices tend to be higher than hostels intended for young people, but they include talks and cultural events. A good way to meet people.


--  Covers ten hostels in eastern New England, a popular area for hiking and biking.

Camera Phone


   "How to Do Everything With Your Camera Phone," by John Moore; $25 from Osborne/McGraw-Hill

   Camera phones are the hottest consumer gadget going right now. It won't be long before everybody has one, and then look-out for privacy and Internet overload. (Watch yourself in the locker room.) Lots of lessons here on how to shoot, transmit, save and edit camera phone photos. Also tips on what to avoid, like "don't use the zoom function;" camera phone resolution is too low for effective zooms.