Architecture of Annoyance
This isn’t so much an Architectures of Control kind of item, but Dan Lockton’s post about his Epson printer made me think about my own annoyance with my HP scanner. Let’s call it an Architecture of Annoyance.
Let me tell you about how I came to own the HP ScanJet 2400. Warning: The story contains a personal revelation of possible copyright infringement. (The copyright musing sprouted all kinds of shoots and leaves, but seems appropriate for a post about optical scanners.)
I don’t have sophisticated scanning needs. I previously owned some cheapo Astra scanner that worked adequately although clunkily and finally went kerplunk while I was scanning a book I had picked up from the library.
Oh, oh. Hold on a second. Scanning a book? That sounds like more than fair use. Horrors. Well, it was a book from the 1960s. Long out of print and difficult to find. Few commercial prospects for future publication. I was scanning it for my own archival purposes. This is one of the things about copyright that drives me nuts. I don’t want to take the law lightly, but what about when the law itself is broken? How can it be good, to lock knowledge and information down so tightly for everything? And of course, some will ask, who am I to decide what is broken and what prospects the book has? Nobody, that’s who. I’m just a fly in the ointment, Hans. I hesitate to bring this up for fear of lost legitimacy. But maybe it’s better for you to know I’m not always a paragon of virtue.
Although, does photocopying a book for your own use qualify as fair use? Is it much different than recording the thirteen parts of From the Earth to the Moon on your VCR or TiVo? And let me tell you: I would have been more than happy to have been able to order the thing from Amazon rather than do all the work of finding it and having it sent via interlibrary loan from St. Cloud State University to my local library and then having to scan the whole thing.
What do you think?
I think a lot of visitors to this site will be sympathetic to this use, but how about it? Anyone think it was terribly wrong to scan the book?
I’ll even tell you what the book is: Logarithms Self-Taught by Peter H. Selby. And after revealing that, I took a look at its current status. There are a couple of places out there that have it. I see now one of those sells it for $14. I would have paid that. At the time the lowest I could find was $70. And in any case, these are just resellers of used books. Should we enforce strict copyright monopoly on out-of-print books indefinitely to inflate the value of the books for used book sellers?
And after having used (and purchased!) books on Algebra and Trigonometry from Mr. Selby, I get the sense that as a lover of knowledge, learning, and teaching, he would be happy to have his work freely used. Would have been. I think he’s dead now. So I certainly don’t think I removed any incentive for him to keep producing. To paraphrase his words, “Learning math is like traveling on a fascinating road that you can follow as far as you care to travel.” And that strikes me as the kind of person who would agree with me in being opposed to unreasonable travel restrictions.
The Bargaindile Hunter
Anyway. The point is, I wanted to finish scanning the book so I needed to pick up a new scanner before the book was due. I figured it shouldn’t be hard to find a budget scanner. Best Buy’s cheapest scanner on the day I looked was $100, which was more than I wanted to pay. Driving along, I happened to see an OfficeMax, so I stopped. And there was the ScanJet 2400. $55. I would have been happy to pay that, but I soon noticed it had a $10 instant rebate and a $40 mail-in rebate, which I eventually received. So with taxes and all, I got the thing for $8. Pure frugal living joy.
And it’s not a bad little scanner. At first, it worked great. I finished scanning the book. The new scans were much better than the old ones. But since shortly after that, it’s been plagued with software problems. Is it instant karma for my scoffright behavior?
When I first installed the drivers from CD, I didn’t think much about how much I had to install, although I quickly noticed the software was crappy. It seems like most scanner software is junk, but maybe it’s just the software that comes with the cheap scanners I buy. I’d rather use the simple Windows built-in software, but that didn’t work so I had to run the install and get all the software just so I could get the correct drivers. It’s irritating that they don’t give you an option to have a simple interface for scanning and optionally only install the necessary drivers. No. They want you to install a whole suite of crap you don’t want.
The reason I’m not sure if this qualifies as an architecture of control is that I can’t see what benefit HP derives from it. It seems like there should be some reason for the control and I don’t know why HP wants me to install their crummy software. It can only leave me with a bad impression of their product. Maybe Dan can help us out here? (And getting back to printers, I’ve had the opposite experience with my HP LaserJet printer. It’s 8 years old and still working great, and I don’t think I’ve ever had to install software for it.)
So I installed all this shoddy software. That’s fine, whatever. I had it installed and working. But then some Windows update broke the thing. I couldn’t get anything to scan. Looked on the HP web site and all they offer is a 200MB install package. Why can’t they just offer a few drivers that Windows needs? And it doesn’t really fix the problem, and it’s been a constant battle to use the thing ever since.
I have to keep uninstalling and reinstalling and trying this and that and make many sacrifices at the reboot alter, and then sometimes, but not always, it might work. In the past I was more willing to work on things like this to the bitter end, but now I don’t want to invest the time and effort when scanning is a low-priority task for me. So I’ve not scanned things because I don’t want to deal with it. (And on second thought, I guess I did reach the bitter end, because I’m done with the thing, and I’m bitter.)
You might think the lesson is that you get what you pay for, but the lesson I get is that HP really dropped the ball on software support for this thing. Even if Windows updates are to blame, why can’t HP keep their drivers up-to-date and their installs more to the point?