Reflections on the cost of ink

Our Minolta Magicolor 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 to warn us again when it’s down to zero per cent. But we dutifully

purchased a “”high-capacity”” replacement yellow cartridge for US$130 to be ready for the crucial moment. 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 colour prints still looked great, but we figured, what the heck, in for a penny, in for a pound: We bought a US$130 magenta replacement cartridge to go with the yellow sitting in the closet.

So here we are in October, continuing to print hundreds of colour 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, and they look fine. We’re sure we’ll be warned about a new color soon.

All of which brings us to the cost of ink.

It’s incredibly expensive to replace the cartridges for inkjet printers. The cost of 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 moneymaker 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.””)


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 anti-virus checker of some sort. Well, it happens to us too.

In fact, the trouble began one day when we were doing a recent 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.””

The only new program that had been installed since writing the previous column was a “”trial version”” of Panda Anti-virus. 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 GoBack, a nearly identical recovery program, to restore your system. Find it at


Need a cheap place to stay while on vacation? At you lots of cheap places to stay for travelers almost anywhere in the world, including the U.S.A. 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.

For more hosteling check out This is the world’s largest organization dedicated to hosteling for older adults. It has a newsletter and organizes group trips as well as lists hostels for individual travelers. Prices tend to be higher than hostels intended for young people, but they include talks and cultural events. It’s a good way to meet people.

At Covers 10 hostels in eastern New England, a popular area for hiking and biking.


“”How to Do Everything With Your Camera Phone”” by John Moore; US$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.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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