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Shark Tank bait

December 06, 2003

One of my favorite columns to read on the Internet has been "Shark Tank". This is a column that relates stories from other people in high tech that really illustrates the point that no good deed goes unpunished.

Not only am I a regular reader, but I happen to be a regular contributor as well.

This doesn't say much for the companies where I choose to work.

Every time you get a story published you get a free t-shirt. I now have enough shirts to have a mini entourage or a bowling team.

Here is the latest story:,4885,87842,00.html

How to save on color printing


Making high-quality color prints is one requirement of this pilot fish's job, so his company springs for a high-quality color printer for his office.

"It's a fast, reliable, wonderful printer," fish says. "I never have any problems with it. Except, of course, other users."

That's because soon after it arrives, other office workers discover that they can send print jobs to it across the network. And they do.

"E-mails, presentations, funny pictures for the office, you name it," says fish. "People would send 40 pages to this printer for a document that could have easily been printed in black and white."

Worse, fish sees prints trashed by the dozens when they're not quite right. And still others are just abandoned, apparently forgotten.

And naturally, when lots of people use a printer, it tends to run out of toner. "Each color costs about $200, and there's four of them," says fish. "This printer is so advanced that it will predict when you will run out of toner. It has charts and everything.

"I voiced my concern that we needed toner and that it was expensive, but to no avail."

Yellow is the first color to run out. And when one color is out, the printer won't print at all. And with the sticker shock of the toner's price, it takes weeks to get the replacement request approved and the printer running again.

Then magenta runs out. The printer shuts down. Everyone is stunned by the toner cost. Weeks go by before the printer is running again.

Then black runs out. "Because of the cost, nobody is willing to buy extra toner, even though the colorful chart tells us it's almost out," says fish.

Finally, it's working once more. "And the silly print jobs start again," fish says. "I need this printer to do my job, and the frustration is really getting me down."

Until he realizes the solution is as close as the printer.

"It has a small control panel that you can use to set default trays, outputs, IP numbers and even print quality," fish says. "And you can set this from a Web page for the printer.

"I set the default from color to black and white."

Suddenly, other people's print jobs are printed only in monochrome. When they ask fish why, he tells them the printer must be out of color toner again. Use of the printer slacks off immediately.

"Now, when I want to print a document in color, I simply open a Web browser, toggle it to color, print the document and change it back when I'm done," says fish.

"And when others noticed that I get color prints just fine and they don't, I tell them they must have a driver conflict."

All of the stories in the Shark Tank are compiled by one very lucky person. This is almost a dream job. They get into work, grab a cup of coffee, then read all of the high tech horror stories that come into their e-mail box. Of those, the person selects the best stories, publishes them, then sends out t-shirts. How cool of a job is that?

The Shark never shares stories about working at, which is too bad. It would be fun to see how their everyday work world compares to the crap many of us deal with on a regular basis.

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