The paperless office

This content is 2 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

For decades, the paperless office has been a panacea, sought out by businesses far and wide. Ever since computers became a part of our daily work, there have been those who have prophesised on how we will no longer need to use paper.

And yet, I still receive so much of the stuff. Sure, I can receive most of my invoices and statements electronically – and we all know how print newspapers and magazines are in a state of decline – but paper is still used extensively. Some people just prefer to interact with analogue media – my wife likes a paper book, for example, and never got on with a Kindle. And some business models rely on shoving pieces of paper through the letter box (try opting out of Royal Mail’s “junk mail” deliveries and you’ll find it’s a lot harder than it should be).

Digitising my life

Several years ago, I started to scan important documents at home. The theory was that everything gets scanned, and only the really important papers got filed in paper form – generally those that related to the house (mortgage, building works) or to me as a person (passport, certificates, medical, etc.).

The trouble was, that I got behind on my scanning. Years behind. Boxes of “to be scanned” and boxes of “might have been scanned – who knows”. And my old Canon scanner was not up to the task – too slow and with an unreliable document feeder. It was also connected to an old (slow) PC, and needed two powered USB ports to drive it (which was a problem on any of the newer devices that I had access to). Added to which, there’s still all the pre-scanning regime files that were stored in the loft until we converted that to living space (4 years ago…).

So, whilst I took a few days off over half term, I bought a new scanner. A 35 pages a minute super-duper Wi-Fi connected paper-eating monster from Brother… and I reworked my document scanning workflow. I’m now scanning through the backlog and thousands of pages of paper are being shredded and recycled each week. So much that I keep overheating the shredder!

What’s the point?

All of this is good – it’s making me feel good about the progress I’m making and my family will be pleased to have fewer boxes of paper in the spare room.

But then my friend Matt Ballantine (@Ballantine70) remarked that he didn’t understand – what did I need to scan? The only paper he gets in junk! And I started to wonder if I’m somehow unusual?

Matt has a point. Years of “business transformation” and “digital transformation” has meant that most of the companies I deal with offer options for electronic bill and statements. But not all:

  • Not all of my tax paperwork is digital. Increasingly it is, but not all.
  • I keep a copy of the latest Council Tax bill, and at least one set of recent bank statements for identity purposes. (Some organisations still won’t accept digital versions!)
  • DBS certificates, vehicle “log book” (V5), etc. are all paper documents (and odd sizes too).
  • Add to that the letters relating to investments, pensions, banking, etc. that don’t arrive digitally.

It’s still quite a lot.

Then there’s the backlog. Maybe I should have a big bonfire and be done with it. Except that my mental makeup won’t allow that. I need to sort through it and find *the important bits* and scan it all *just in case*. (I know. It’s just the way I am. Try living with me!). And, anyway, paper doesn’t burn very well, as I found a few years ago when I got rid of 20+ years’ worth of work notebooks that were a potential GDPR nightmare and just gathering dust.

A digital dilemma…

So, now my “paperless office” is getting closer. And I almost never print anything at work. But I create lots. Lots of documents that I write. Lots of photos that I create. Lots of digital files I download (instead of receiving printed copies) or scan (see above).

The trick is to make sure I don’t replace boxes and boxes of paper files with digital mayhem. A digital mess that’s spread across a variety of online services from Microsoft, Amazon, Dropbox, Google and Apple!

Advice and guidance is welcomed… comments are open below!

Featured image: author’s own.

Replacing an all-in-one OfficeJet with a colour laser printer and some free software

This content is 9 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

One downside of moving jobs is that I’ve had to give back all of the kit I was using that belongs to Fujitsu*. The car went back last month at the end of its lease but yesterday I returned a pile of technology to the office including mobile phone, laptop, monitor, printer.

Hang on. Printer. I’m not the only user of that particular device…

I never liked it anyway – I’ve had a succession of OfficeJet all-in-one devices since I swapped out my trusty old LaserJet for a company-supplied printer and I’ve found inkjet devices to be expensive in consumables (non-OEM cartridges gunking up; OEM cartridges running out even when they say they have ink in them) and the HP OfficeJet 4620 that I’ve used for the last couple of years was particularly unreliable from a software perspective too. So I decided to pick up a small-office laser printer instead and the Samsung SL-C410W was just £130 for a colour laser printer.

Of course some will say, if I think ink cartridges are expensive, wait until I have to buy toner and the other items that the new printer will need but we’re talking in thousands of pages here… for someone who gets through about a box of paper (2500 sheets) every 2 years or so (and half of that has been taken by the kids for drawing)!

Anyway, back to the point. The SL-C410W was available at a great price direct from Samsung (£20 cheaper than John Lewis or PC World – and Staples were way off the mark), with free next-day delivery. Setup was simple, following the supplied instructions to get connected to my Wi-Fi network (although I did install the software on a PC and use the supplied USB cable to make things easy).  There were a couple of points that it might have been useful to know though:

  • Setting a static IP address needed a connection to the printer’s SyncThru web service – either using the supplied software to find the device on the network or using the DHCP logs to work out which IP address it was using and going to http://ipaddress/sws/index.html.
  • Once in SyncThru, login is required to make changes – default username is admin and password is sec00000.

With the password and IP address changed and discovery services configured, our family PC (running Windows 8.1) automatically found and connected to the printer, whilst the Windows 7 PCs only needed me to walk through a wizard (printer and driver location was automatic).

That just left the issue of copying – a feature on the OfficeJet that we do use sometimes. Here, some open source software called iCopy came to the rescue.  It does exactly what it says on the tin – provides a “free photocopier” by linking a scanner and a printer – nothing that can’t be done manually but a single button was helpful for family members who use this feature.

The only slight problem was locating Windows Image Aquisition (WIA) drivers for my elderly CanoScan N650U/N656U with Canon not offering anything for Windows 7 and the Internet seemingly littered with dead links.  Luckily, Tom Heath has posted a link to the drivers and these worked a treat.

Only time will tell whether the SL-C410W was a wise buy or not – but at least my family have a means to print homework, my wife has a printer (and copier) again for her work, and I have something that should be reasonably reliable and hassle-free…


* There are lots of upsides too – including that my new “laptop” will be a Surface Pro 3, and that I’ll be using modern software to help me in my work.

HP ink ripoff

This content is 15 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

I used to have a great printer – an HP LaserJet 2200dn. It was a workgroup-class laser printer with a duplex unit and it happily printed many pages for me until one day it started banding. I changed the toner cartridge but that didn’t help – it seemed that the printer needed more specialised attention than I could provide so, as they had enjoyed the benefits at no cost for the last few years, I asked the company that I work for to either a) fix it or b) replace it. The company chose option b and, supplied me with an HP OfficeJet 6310 all-in-one device that doesn’t print on both sides of the paper, often picks up multiple sheets when printing large documents and drinks ink at an alarming rate.

You may have realised by now that I’m no fan of inkjets but I do at least use the HP339 high yield black cartridges (this printer can use 336, 337 or 339) so I don’t have to change cartridges quite so often (and I keep on printing until it runs out, rather than changing the cartridge when low ink warning first appears). Applying that model to the tri-color cartridge, I decided to try the 344, which appears to be the same as a 342/343, except with more ink inside… but the printer was having none of it:

Cartridge Error: Cartridge on left is not intended for this printer

HP Vivera 343 ink cartridgeI swapped it for a 343 (which looks the same, costs slightly less, but only has 7ml of ink instead of 14ml) and was greeted with:

Genuine HP Tri-Color print cartridge installed.

Rip-off merchants! It seems that HP, in addition to having different numbers for similar cartridges in different markets, is preventing the use of high-yield cartridges in certain devices. Interestingly, if I had an OfficeJet 6210 instead of a 6310, it could use either the 343 or the 344. I know I could use third-party inks but that would void the warranty and, after all, this is the company’s printer – not mine (so it’s not my choice to make).

It really annoys me that, in the throwaway society we live in today, the printer doesn’t cost much more than the consumables. The real answer of course is to print fewer pages… but with more and more companies opting for the “green” benefits of electronic billing (it’s not green – the tax authorities still want paper documents and sometimes its just easier to read documents on paper – it just shifts the printing burden from the supplier’s bulk-printing facilities to the reciever’s crappy inkjet) things are only going to get worse.

The Ink and Toner Shop

This content is 15 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

I live in a small market town with a population of around 6000 people. Unlike the larger towns nearby, we don’t have an identikit high street and are fortunate to have a number of independent shops – a butcher, a baker (no candlestick maker!), a saddlery, gift/card shops, florists, restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques, antiques, a toy shop, sweet shop, picture framer, etc. We also have a weekly market and a monthly farmer’s market, several banks, a post office, a small supermarket (but sadly a few too many estate agents and charity shops) and, somewhat inevitably, the all-too-powerful retail giant that is Tesco is in town (not content with a One Stop store at one end of the high street they recently opened a Tesco Express store right next to the market square… and now they have their sights on ripping the heart out of the neighbouring town).

So, what’s the point of this ramble? The point is that we have a thriving local community, good schools and local facilities so, wherever practical, I like to shop locally and support the independent traders in the town (i.e. not Tesco!). As a member of the camera club, I’d been alerted to the existence of one business in the town that I hadn’t used until today – The Ink and Toner Shop.

As the name suggests, The Ink and Toner Shop offers a variety of printer-related consumables at competitive prices with friendly service and free delivery (even for those who don’t happen to live around the corner, as I do!). So, next time you’re looking for “printer food”, rather than buying from the local supermarket/Staples/PC World/Costco, please check out The Ink and Toner Shop website and support my local community!