So, I’m here at my mom’s place for the holidays — in Spain, actually, though I’ll get into that at another time. Maybe. Anyway, it just came to pass that I needed to scan some stuff for my brother, and luckily enough, my mom has a scanner — an HP Scanjet 4070 Photosmart Scanner, to be exact. So all I need to do is install the drivers and I’m up and running, right?
Well, kinda. Because making my way to HP’s web page for the product, I find that the driver package is about 301 megabytes, because it includes some kind of an awesome software suite called ImageZone. It is, of course, utterly impossible that someone might just want to, y’know, scan something and not get “I want the full HP experience, because it’s so user-friendly and awesome” tattooed on their chest.
Then we find the actual driver CD. Surprise, surprise — that’s the same thing. Even from the CD itself, there is no actual option to just install the driver. If I want to scan a picture, I have no option but to install some ridiculously bloated piece of shit just to scan a couple of pieces of paper my brother needs to send to his employer back in Finland. A cursory Google search reveals no source for just the driver; could be there’s one out there, but if I need to actually start hunting for it — that is to say, start looking outside the manufacturer’s own website — the damage has pretty much been done. Making consumers install a huge piece of shit like that for no good reason when a scanner driver couldn’t be reasonably expected to be more than a couple of megabytes in size is just idiotic. Of course, modern hard drives tend to be large enough for the size in itself not to be that much of an issue — although even so, if you’re behind a slightly crappy internet link (in, oh, Spain, as a completely random example) and need to wait for several hours while 300 megs trickle in just so you can scan a piece of paper, that’s a huge pain in the ass. The idea that in order to use an HP scanner, a completely mundane and everyday piece of computer hardware, with, oh, say, Photoshop, you need to bloat your computer with bullshit software you don’t want or need smacks of absolutely no regard for keeping the customer happy, or at least not overcome by murderous rage.
I realize that hardware manufacturers have, despite all evidence to the contrary, a deeply held belief that what all users really want is someone to bring them one wonderful software suite after another. After all, who in their right mind would want to use Photoshop to touch up their photographs, when they can use the awesome HP Image Zone, which has great features like e-mailing your pictures to other people! That’s some cutting edge shit. Adobe better hustle if they don’t want to be left behind by the pioneers at HP.
The assumption that programs like this are popular, desired and useful may well be true for the guy who buys his first computer — y’know, the type who enjoys forwarding funny chain letters to all his friends and relatives and is genuinely excited about screen savers. I know he’s out there, and he’s not alone. I wish him well; if HP Image Zone makes him happy, it’s no skin off my nose and I’m glad he has such a good time with it. But there’s no reason to believe that the only way to keep Mr. Watch Out For the Budweiser Frog Virus smiling while he designs those wonderfully whimsical and personal clip art greeting cards is to fuck every single geek and professional user in the process.
I have an oldish Canon scanner at home, and I’ve been thinking of upgrading that one. When I do, I know for a fact the new one is not going to manufactured by HP — it’s not that I believe the HP product itself to be in any way inferior (I don’t really have an opinion on the matter), but dealing with this kind of ridiculous shit is annoying enough for me to find the idea of giving these guys a single dime pretty much unpalatable.
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