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    How to get your fair share:

    Headaches of getting your computer to see, “talk to” and share a printer could be a thing of the past

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2006 First published in Business in Vancouver May 2-8, 2006; 862

    GearGuide column; 

    No need for everyone in a small business to have his or her own printer. Each of these three printers combines affordability with built-in networking, enabling each to be easily shared among multiple users (though each also includes USB for connection to a single computer). Each will work equally well with Windows (2000 and XP), Linux and Mac OS X users, though this may motivate you to update those older Windows or Mac systems. By price:

    Small, affordable, monochrome

    Lexmark E120nLexmark’s E120n is a good example of a modern laser printer small enough for personal use or shared at home, small office or workgroup. Its $179 price makes it competitive with inkjets, while trading inkjet colour for the quick print speed (up to 20 pages per minute) and crisp print output of a monochrome laser. Its built-in networking was proved easy to set up; the printer was located without problem by Windows and Macs on my local network. Quiet and compact, like other monochrome laser printers it combines low cost per page with good-looking looking text output. A limitation: there’s no way to upgrade the 150-sheet paper tray, so it’s best for users who don’t do a lot of printing. For light use, though, it’s the most affordable way to get a networked printer.

    Fastest inkjet colour

    Officejet K550HP’s Officejet Pro K550 is a series of colour inkjet printers that shoot out pages quicker than most lasers: up to 37 pages per minute, while delivering up to 30 per cent lower cost per page when using HP’s optional large ink cartridges. Relatively large for an inkjet, it uses four ink cartridges and two printheads. Text and graphics quality is good, though photo printing is slower.

    All models include a 250-sheet paper tray. Models and pricing include the base K550 (no networking: $249), the networked K550dtn ($369) and the wireless K550dtwn ($449). The two networked models include a duplexer for double-sided printing and a second paper tray. Note: many Officejet models include scanning, faxing and copying. This one is printer-only.

    Networked colour laser

    Lexmark C520Back to Lexmark, whose C520n (sometimes marketed as C522n: $599) is a larger colour networked laser printer combining excellent text with good colour print quality at laser printer speed and price per page. The included 250-sheet paper tray (and optional 500-sheet tray) make this a good choice for small office/workgroup printing loads. It was a bit of a challenge removing all the various plastic packing inserts and I had to manually set the IP address on the printer; after doing this, it was quickly found by all the systems on my network. Photo output, while not as good as the best inkjet output was definitely good enough for use in newsletters and other plain-paper material. Both text and graphics printed faster than many other competitively-priced colour laser printers.

    Tougher than other USB flash drives

    OK, it’s not a networked office printer. But tiny flash memory drives have replaced floppy diskettes as the way many of us carry our documents around from place to place. But like floppy diskettes, flash drives can be more fragile than expected. Plastic bits break, making it all too easy for your data to disappear from your key ring. Or the drive just stops working, for seemingly no reason.

    ToughDriveATP’s ToughDrive (, available in 256MB and 512MB ($30 and $50), 1GB and 2GB ($70 and $125) capacities, is tougher than the average flash drive, with a DuraSkin rubber housing for shock absorption and water resistance. It offers fast (30 MB/sec) USB 2.0 performance and the company claims they last up to 10 times as long as other flash drives. If your data matters, this might be the way to keep it in your pocket.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan