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DeskWriter C Driver Grump

Santa kindly left a DeskWriter C under my tree so I'll be able to enlighten future undergraduates with color transparencies. But I found a few problems with the current DeskWriter C printer drivers. I was prepared to put up with the absence of background printing until the new driver came out, but the current driver is not compatible with 68040 caches. There are a couple of ways to temporarily disable the caches (without restarting), but those don't work with the DeskWriter C AppleTalk driver. With the caches on, an attempt to print (or even access print setup) hangs the system. With the caches temporarily off, print commands report that they can't find the DeskWriter C on the network (after a few seconds, the Chooser does find the printer, but on returning to the application, the driver loses it again).

I'd read that some Quadra network problems are solved by the new version of AppleTalk (it ships with Remote AppleTalk, which I own). However, AppleTalk 57 made the incompatibility with the DeskWriter C driver even worse. Evidently, the existing DeskWriter C driver is entirely incompatible with AppleTalk 57 (likely to be part of System 7.1).

OK, back to AppleTalk 56 and restart with caches off (only for testing, there's no way I plan to make a regular thing of running with caches off). I have a 2+ MB application (SPSS) that comes with it's own TrueType font. About This Macintosh... with balloon help says SPSS uses 2,250K, but the DeskWriter C driver says it doesn't have enough application memory to print a page when the app memory is set at 2,900K. [Editor's note: This is probably related in part to what Murph was printing, since the memory requirements rise dramatically when you want to print lots of colors. See our article on the DeskWriter C in TidBITS-080/09-Sep-91 for more information.]

I've talked to HP's technical support. They indicate that the System 7-friendly and Quadra-compatible drivers probably won't be available until "the second quarter." That's four, maybe six, months. The technician also said she didn't think there is even a beta copy yet, at least not one that is compatible with the Quadra. I appreciate the logic that the Quadra cache problem was something that took HP unaware (funny that the folks at Absoft included an item about it in their newsletter six months or so ago), but I don't understand why HP hasn't already shipped System 7-compatible drivers. Surely, HP had early beta copies of System 7, and the technical specifications even earlier. System 7 has been out for 7 months, a year later than originally planned.

Other developers don't appear to have had too much difficulty upgrading for cache compatibility. Of course, print drivers may be a whole different problem than extensions and applications. The HP technician described Hewlett-Packard as "one of Apple's competitors, so they don't make beta hardware available to us." My understanding is that Apple's dealings with third party developers are not so simple. Perhaps someone out there can allay my suspicion that HP just hasn't been giving the problem adequate attention. [Ed. There have been ongoing complaints about the DeskWriter's drivers for quite some time now, so it's not too surprising that there would be problems with the DeskWriter C's driver as well.]

The fact that the old drivers worked up to now may have led HP to assign a lower priority to working on the new drivers, but based on my experience, the existing AppleTalk driver is unlikely to work with the forthcoming 7.1 (and its likely associate, AppleTalk 57). Anyone contemplating purchasing a DeskWriter C to use with System 7.1 or a Quadra might want to insist on the new drivers before committing to the purchase. At the very least, pressing lots of dealers into calling HP about System 7.1-compatibility should generate more attention to the problem.

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