Category Archives: Best Practices

Do You Have a Productive Printer?

The days of typing a manuscript to send off to a publisher seem like ancient history to younger writers. The number of publishers requiring printed manuscripts shrinks daily. And some authors write, edit, submit, and publish without ever touching paper. The whole eco-arguement aside, is this the best way? The printed -I’m talking ink and toner here- word can be a good thing.
I started using a computer when I was eleven. It was a time when the era of huge inflation was giving way to the era of huge hair, but I digress. To get to the point, I was raised on paper. There are times I hate paper. This time of year is one of them, taxes and the annual file cabinet purge have me surrounded. Then there are times I insist on paper. For final editing, there is no better medium than paper. It’s easier on the eyes, it doesn’t require a battery or outlet, it’s portable, works on most surfaces, and never blue screens while you’re reading a sentence. And a shout-out to the green minded, it’s recyclable. The hidden issue with printing what you write is cost. Ink, toner, paper, the amount of time it takes all add up. This is why we need to look at printer technology. A printer, is not a printer, is not a printer. You would not use a finishing hammer to replace shingles and you would not use an InkJet printer to print your 500 page manuscript.
Printers put words on paper using two different technologies. InkJet, which sprays or paints the words on the page. Consider this the machine version of fountain pens. The other is laser. This technology uses a powered ink, called toner. The toner is transferred to the paper using an electrical charge and then fused to the page with heat.
Why choose one over the other?
Two main items set these technologies apart. Cost per page and speed. Let’s look at two Hewlett-Packard printers. A basic DeskJet 1000 and a LaserJet Pro P1102w.
For comparing the two printers, we’ll use a 100,000 page manuscript, assuming 250 words per page to give a real world example of 400 pages.
DeskJet 1000 LaserJst Pro P1102W
Cost $29.90 $159.99 These are retail prices from hp.com. Most likely you can find either printer on sale
Speed (PPM) 5.5 19 Laser is 3X Faster
Resolution *=(DPI) 600 1200 Laser will be more crisp
Duty Cycle # pages/month 1,000 5,000 You can get 5X more productivity from the laser
Tray Capacity 60 sheets 150 More time writing and less time filling up paper trays
Ink/Toner cost $13.99 for 165 sheets$27.99 for 480 sheets $68.00 for 1600 sheets You’ll spend over $100 in ink for the same capacity of toner
Cost Per Page $13.65 cart – $0.085$27.99 cart – $0.058 $68.00 cart – $0.04 At 400 pages that’s $23.20 vs. $16.  You just paid for lunch!

The cost difference per page is only 0.018. But as Grandma used say, if you pay attention to the nickels and dimes, you’ll soon have dollars?

Given the same number of pages, the InkJet will take over an hour to print what the LaserJet will kick out in 20 minutes. The duty cycle spec tells us InkJet will wear out more quickly. The cost savings in ink will quickly pay for the increased cost of the laser printer.

The numbers indicate that laser technology may be the way to go. But don’t run out to the nearest office supply store yet!
If you write for magazines and only need to print 20 pages per month, InkJet tech may be the most cost-effective and cash flow friendly option for you. However, if you’re working on the next novel that will make War and Peace look like a bathroom read, then laser tech makes more sense. Only you can decide what makes the best productivity fit for your situation.
If you don’t use a printer in your writing process, I urge you to give it a try. I’ve found that printing a manuscript with a 14 or 16 point serif font on yellow paper, makes those punctuation and  spell check errors stand out. Plus I can stretch out on the backyard swing under our red bud tree while editing.
Next week we’ll explore duplexing, scanning, WiFi, Air Print, and color options.
Are you a paperless author or one who will risk the dreaded paper cut? Please share why you think paper or paperless is the best way to go.
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Writing and Banking Do Not Belong Together

The mantra “writing time is for writing and only writing” is drilled into the mindset of anyone serious about succeeding as a author. But let’s take it one step further, “your writing laptop is for writing and only writing.”

Now you’re thinking why on earth would you limit the use of a computer to one task. In a word, security. Writers today are mobile. Working at coffee houses, favorite sandwich shop, waiting on flights at the airport, or sitting in the waiting room for a doctor’s appointment. All of these scenarios are opportunity for a thief to strike.

The obvious threat is that someone steals your laptop. If you use it for everything, you’ve lost everything. This includes any user IDs and passwords stored in your browser. A bad guy just needs to click on your banking bookmark and sit back while your browser automatically logs in. Presto they have full access to your accounts.

A hidden threat of using your laptop on a public network is getting hacked. The quiet guy in the corner could be scanning the coffee house’s public network. Even if you’re running a firewall, it has to allow your programs to interact with the Internet. The industry refers to this a punching a hole. If you punch a hole in a section of cardboard does it only allow you to see through it in one direction? This may be a bit  simplified, but you get the idea. If you let programs out through your firewall, data usually comes back through the same way. Given the right circumstances, a hacker and exploit this. Even if you update your computer’s OS and programs on a regular basis, hackers can also exploit known flaws. Years ago the Blaster Worm exploited an existing security hole affecting part of Microsoft’s Windows OS and impacted computers all over the world.

 

I’m not trying to scare anyone, but think about what would happen if your laptop disappeared. What information would go with it? Do you know all your IDs and passwords to every account you use your laptop to access? Do you have the phone numbers to these institutions to call and have your online account disabled?

What are some steps you can take? An easy one is do not store usernames, IDs, or passwords in your browser. Storing them in your browser creates a file on your computer containing this information. Hackers can access these files and thus your accounts. You can use password programs like LastPass to store your information. Programs like this remember your IDs and passwords, but do not store information locally. I’m partial to LastPass because it has the added benefit of working on multiple platforms. No matter what device I’m using, I can find the password I need.

The best thing to do is to separate your financial information from the laptop you carry with you. Today you can buy a basic laptop in the $300-$400 range. If you’re really thrifty and shop around, you can get something for around $200, but you’ll have to be dedicated to find these bargins. Think of it as insurance. A small investment to ensure that your information is safe. After all, you wouldn’t carry around your bank statements to the coffee shop and leave them on the table for all to see. Why do the electronic equivalent with your laptop?

Word processing files can be backed up with little effort and this topic will be explored in a future post. However, once money is drained from your checking or retirement account, it’s gone. You may be able to recover some of it, but in the short term you’ll have no cash and you’ll have the stress of dealing a complete preventable mess. And if you’re stressed and on the phone with your bank all day, you won’t be able to write. And if you don’t write you won’t sell anything. Then you’ll have even less money and more stress.

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