At BETT this year I got talking to the guys at the Epson stand and ended up looking at their range of business ink jets. Now I am not a huge fan of printers generally as they cost a lot of money to run and you can make savings and reduce printing costs by utilising digital workflows. But the reality is that you sometimes do need to print so I was interested in ways that we could trim the budget for my school on this.
What interested me about Epson’s printers was their approach to using inkjet. They have taken the same technology they use on a commercial scale and have shrunk it down to provide a reliable and affordable alternative to laser in an office/school etc.
The printers I saw had some cool features:
Because they don’t need to fuse toner onto a piece of paper they use a lot less energy to run and have much faster startup times
Print speeds are really fast
There are fewer parts to maintain and replace — ink comes in bags that can be slotted in — which lowers costs
All of this results in printers that are substantially cheaper to run. Comparing the WorkForce Pro WF-C5210DW with our existing HP laser printers, consumable costs with inkjet are basically half that of laser. So even with the outlay of buying new printers, we are estimating a 30% saving this financial year. Which means more money for iPads!
So we got one of the Epson printers at my school to try out, and I’m pretty impressed so far. The ink comes in little bags that just slot in and take way less space to store. Print speed is very fast with a good print quality as well. It even has decent AirPrint support as well, which makes setup on our network nice and straightforward.
In these increasingly financial constrained times for schools, the thought of saving money by not burning through expensive toner is certainly welcome!
As my fun treat for finishing term, I got to go back into school the next day and begin the great SMARTboard revolution. This involved going round to every Mac in the school and unplugging the USB cable (and in some cases, the USB-serial cable…these are seriously old boards), taking away the pens and completely uninstalling any SMART software on the computer (drivers, extras, Notebook software etc.). It felt good!
Reflecting on my passionate dislike for ‘smart’ boards (what an ironically misnamed product: I wonder how they’d take my preferred moniker of STUPIDboard?), I think it comes down to the fact that they’ve never really worked that well and have never really gotten any better:
- endless aligning to try and make the pens write as they should
- really quite horrible software for the Mac (although it has improved in recent years)
- glare and shadow from the projectors
- projectors! Projectors are great in a darkened room (e.g. a cinema), but not in a bright classroom. Plus the image quality degrades steadily but inevitably over time until you can barely see anything.
- trying to make a mouse and keyboard user interface work with touch. Apple have explicitly sworn off this idea (hence the iPad), but SMART seem to blithely carry on regardless. I cannot count the amount of times I’ve tried to tap on some element of the user interface, but then for it to not quite be aligned correctly and so I give up and use the mouse instead.
- really fragile board surface that results in areas of the board that just don’t work properly
- have I ever mentioned the cost? £2000 for a glorified trackpad is expensive in anyone’s book.
But I cannot sit back and bask in my delight for too long, as the challenge of communicating/demonstrating/inspiring teachers about how an iPad can be the smart man’s smart board still stands.
The latest point update to OSX 10.7 was released last week and I was pleasantly surprised today to discover that all of the Lion machines had already updated themselves thanks to Munki.
I know this is not the most exciting news in the world, but I was happy to see it as our Mac server is only running 10.6 and had to be fiddled with to get it to dish up Lion updates. I followed Apple’s instructions on how to do this but at first I didn’t think it had worked. Now I guess it was just caching them all as Lion clients now seem to be happily updating themselves. Yay!
I guess that now frees up my half term to do the LGfL 2.0 switchover with our trusty IT technician Ji. Looking forward to that job…