Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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September 2003, Week 2 -- The Price of Printing



   I was caught by a brief item in PC Magazine that calculated the typical cost of owning a $50 color inkjet printer for three years at $1,310.

   That was based on the assumption that the printer would be used to print around 100 pages a month, for a total of 3,600 pages after three years. That's around three pages a day if used every day. That's pretty modest. If used more often the cost jumps up.


   It's the ink that does it of course. In an earlier column we pointed out that the cost of ink for inkjet printers works out to an astonishing $5,500 a gallon. The cost of the $50 printer itself is what they call a loss leader in the retail business. Nobody can make any money selling color printers for $50 (and sometimes less) so printer makers switched to the Gillette Rule. That refers to the Gillette razor company's early practice of practically giving away the razors and making their money selling the blades.


  That $1,310 cost for running a cheap inkjet printer got me to bring out my own well-worn pencil for some quick calculations on our Minolta color laser printer. Here's how it works out:


   The MinoltaQMS Magicolor 2300W cost $749 after a $50 rebate. The three color cartridges cost $119 each and the one black cartridge $79, for a total of $437 for the four toner cartridges. Those are not discounted prices but were taken directly from Minolta's web site and their own full-price supplies.


   But the cartridges have an estimated print life of 4,500 pages each. So the $437 ink cost is less than 10 cents a page. When we add the cost of the laser printer to the $360 ink cost of printing 3,600 pages, the total comes to $1,100, which is $200 less than the cheap inkjet printer. It's amazing but it's cheaper to own a color laser than a $50 bargain bin printer. And the laser is much faster and more reliable.


Search and recover

Search & Recover

   Ever want to recover an email message you accidentally deleted? Are you kidding? Are frogs waterproof?

  "Search and Recover" is a very, very handy utility from Iolo Technologies, and it can recover just about anything that was ever a mote in your computer's eye. Find files, folders, pictures, music, spreadsheets, etc. If it's there, or was once there but still hidden somewhere, this program will find it. Search and Recover can also search through camera flash cards and MP3 players.


   We tried it on several difficult searches and it worked great. The program also has a "shredder" feature that lets you permanently destroy a deleted file so it cannot be recovered by someone else. Search and Destroy is $40 from the maker:




--  Find out what ASAP means! Type in any acronym and a tiny program from this site will give you the possible definitions. You can load the program into your computer. If you right-click on any acronym in any document, Acronym Finder will give you a list of possible meanings starting with the most common. "FDA," for example, offers 20 possible definitions, including the "Florida Dental Association," but starts the list with the federal "Food and Drug Administration," which is the most likely.


--  Not that keen on acronyms? How about analogies? Analogies are useful ways to think about complex interactions. A cell nucleus can be likened to a library, for example.



--  This is Merton's personal collection of the worst analogies ever written in high school essays. For instance: "The little boat drifted gently across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't." Or: "Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze." "The politician was gone but not noticed, like the period after the 'Dr.' on a 'Dr Pepper' can."

--  Five thousand products for automating your home or business. Many of them focus on security surveillance. For instance, you can have you house or office call you on your cell phone if there's a problem. Lots of neat stuff, not very expensive.



 Haunted Carousel

   "Nancy Drew and the Haunted Carousel," $20 for ages 10 and up, from Her Interactive Teenage sleuth Nancy Drew is invited to a seashore town in New Jersey to solve the mystery of a horse stolen from a carousel. As with all these games, there is much more to the mystery than what appears at first. There are some extremely clever touches here: thoroughly modern Nancy carries a cell phone now, and the clerk at her motel talks with an exaggerated New Jersey accent.


   These games are great learning tools. The child who plays them must pay attention to details, follow directions, and keep track of what she has found along with projecting what she needs to find. This is by far the best Nancy Drew mystery we've seen.



Windows XP

   "Show Me Windows XP," by Steve Johnson; $20 from Que Books

   This is the first in a new "Show Me" series from Que. The core of these books is hundreds of screen shots, showing the user what any operation looks like step by step. So, for example, if you want to learn how to use the "Movie Maker" feature, the book shows you what you should be seeing on the screen as you proceed. If you don't see it, start over.


NOTE: Readers can search past columns on our web site: You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at or