Please enjoy the new eco-friendly printers, now arguably less eco-friendly


Some years ago, the IT department replaced the printers multifunction devices with new reportedly eco-friendly models. One feature of the new devices is that when you send a job to the printer, it doesn't print out immediately. Printing doesn't begin until you go to the device and swipe your badge through the card reader. The theory here is that this cuts down on the number of forgotten or accidental printouts, where you send a job to a printer and forget to pick it up, or you click the Print button by mistake. If a job is not printed within a few days, it is automatically deleted.

The old devices already supported secured printing, where the job doesn't come out of the printer until you go to the device and release the job. But with this change, secured printing is now mandatory. Of course, this means that even if you weren't printing something sensitive, you still have to stand there and wait for your document to print instead of having the job already completed and waiting for you.

The new printing system also removes the need for job separator pages. Avoiding banner pages and eliminating forgotten print jobs are touted as the printer's primary eco-friendly features.

Other functions provided by the devices are photocopying and scanning. With the old devices, you place your document on the glass or in the document hopper, push the Scan button, and the results are emailed to you. With the new devices, you place your document on the glass or in the document hopper, push the Scan button, and the results are emailed to you, plus a confirmation page is printed out.

Really eco-friendly service there, printing out confirmation pages for every scanning job.

The problem was fixed a few weeks later.

Bonus chatter: Our fax machines also print confirmation pages, or at least they did the last time I used one, many years ago.

Comments (27)
  1. anonymouscommenter says:

    I can't remember the last time I had to print out something directly related to software development. On the other hand, I do remember shredding every last historical printout during my latest office move.

  2. ipoverscsi says:

    The best thing about the "secure by default" policy is that you have to stand there while your document prints. At least that's the case at my company. This is because you must insert your badge into the card reader, not swipe it; and it must stay inserted at least until the job has finished spooling to the printer. And if you've waited that long, you might as well wait for the job to finish printing.

    At my internal billing rate, it's $10 for me to stand there and wait five minutes for the printer.

    I guess burning dollars is more eco-friendly than printing job separators and confirmation pages.

  3. Brian_EE says:

    So how do you print something for a colleague who is another building. Sounds like you can't just map the printer closest to them, print it, and let them pick it up.

  4. anonymouscommenter says:

    ipoverscsi: you can always use a smartphone or think about work-related matters. That should certainly improve your cost-effectiveness per minute.

  5. Ian says:

    Most of our colour printers are sited right next to a black and white printer. To save money, somebody decided that the colour printers should all default to printing in black and white. The result is that most people end up printing their colour documents twice. Once in black and white, followed by much cursing and then a second printout in colour.

    Sometimes even the second attempt ends up in black and white, because when a colour cartridge needs replacing the printer falls back on black and white printing and the printer driver *doesn't warn you*.

  6. anonymouscommenter says:

    @Bryan EE: print to XPS and email :)

  7. Dan Bugglin says:

    There is an advantage to this approach though, at least where I work... at bigger companies you don't have to figure out how to add a specific printer to your PC (figure out its name, etc). You just print to a meta-printer device, then swipe your card at whatever printer you want to handle the print job. No need to remember printer names... especially since where I work they are seemingly random collections of letters and numbers (which I suppose, when you get to a large number of devices in a big company, is easier than thinking up names for all of them).

    I wish we had the auto-email when scanning. We have to select what happens to our document after we scan it, and compose the e-mail on the somewhat primitive printer touchscreen. At least it fills in your own e-mail by default. I guess they don't e-mail it automatically in case you want to fax it instead.

    @Brian EE you e-mail the document to them and they can print it or do whatever else they want with it. This actually makes sense since it discourages needless printing of something if a digital copy is all they need.

    @ipoverscsi The system we use just has you swipe your badge. But it's not integrated into our badging system so you have to set it up by associating your badge with your NT account (I guess it IS integrated with the domain?) the first time you use it.

  8. anonymouscommenter says:

    That's really smart, wasting hours of people's time (at $50-100/hour) to save a few cents worth of paper.

    Why is that "ecology" seems to justify all kinds of silly measures that don't actually have any net benefit?

  9. anonymouscommenter says:

    Very interesting.  My company instituted the "secure" printing mode as an option a couple of years ago.  At least the IT admins here had the good sense to not mention this as an "eco" feature.  They only mention it's security benefits.  Fortunately they also kept the non-secure printing mode, too, so there's no need to swipe one's badge for most printing jobs.  (All told, I probably print about 10 pages a year).  My office has been on an eco-friendly kick, too, but those gains were achieved by office consolidation: more people using fewer shared printers, resulting in fewer printers sitting idle.

  10. anonymouscommenter says:

    And the pause between your badge logging you into the printer and it actually spinning up to print the job is just long enough to make you start questioning if the print job actually made it to the printer.

  11. This is pretty much exactly Microsoft as we know it.

    It is not just eco-friendly printers. Windows 10 for example, is OS-as-a-service. What is different? Well, service packs are just called "updates" and have become mandatory for the home users. (Ironically, its the enterprise that can afford fast Internet and unmetered update download.) Or take Microsoft design language for instance. In theory contents are supposed to be the hero and everything else is supposed to go. In practice, contents is pretty much what it always was, everything else becomes more hideous.

  12. anonymouscommenter says:

    Yeah my home boxes only ever got remotely exploitable patches. Do I really care on a single-user box if there's a kernel-level font driver exploit that requires running code on the box to abuse? Nope. Do I really care that load this page on IE, get a virus? Yup.

  13. anonymouscommenter says:

    I helped my university set up their print accounting/quota system for the student labs years ago. We discovered that simply popping up a notification to let them know how many pages were in the job and how many they had printed that semester cut paper use by more than half. Turns out just knowing that someone is paying attention to the use makes users more "eco-friendly."

  14. Brian_EE says:

    @Scott Brickey / @The MAZZTer

    Often times I don't have that option. 1) I often work with files that aren't "documents" per-se and the recipient may not have the (expensive) software tools to open the file, yet they need a hardcopy for review. 2) You can't email ITAR materials.

    Either way it's not a problem for me because we can print to any printer within the enterprise (9 buildings over 4 geographic locations) at the place where I work.

    I guess if you work at Microsoft, you learn to deal with it, if not so efficiently.

  15. bzakharin says:

    @Boris,

    The last time I printed something was today. I work on report conversion at it is a lot easier to check off whether the new report has the same values as the old one when the latter is on paper using a pen, rather than messing with PDFs

  16. cheong00 says:

    At least hopefully your model is not as lame as what I used.

    The multifunction printer has scan/print/fax/email function, but if you have a soft copy to fax, you have to print it first and place the printout in the autofeeder to fax.

    When it receives fax, it can store the fax on a common mailbox though.

  17. anonymouscommenter says:

    @Brian EE

    Emailing ITAR data: only when you make an export.

  18. Engywuck says:

    @Brian EE: sometimes it's not good to be able to print on any printer, *especially* when you handle sensitive (or secret) data. One mistake and you don't send it to, say, the management in the next building but to some random person in production....

    Sure, there are other vectors this breach could happen (send to wrong person by email, ...), but why add one?

  19. AndyCadley says:

    @Brian EE: If you can print, you can make a PDF these days. And there's no expensive software needed for viewing (or printing) those.

  20. anonymouscommenter says:

    @Brian_EE: I'm intrigued.  You can't print to XPS and email the results for security/confidentiality reasons, but you can blast the report to a remote printer and hope that the right person picks it up?  I would think that an encrypted email would be more secure.

  21. Brian_EE says:

    @EGH3 - What if the people who maintain your Exchange servers (where all the mailboxes are) aren't all US citizens?

    @Flydog - The areas are access controlled so only people with proper credentials (including need to know) could grab it.

    @Engywuck - not possible, systems handling secret data are physically and electrically isolated from the main network. There's a big difference between controlled and secret.

    @AndCadley - valid point, but doesn't cover 100% of use cases I see. Also, Adobe Acrobat isn't free, and here F/OSS software isn't allowed unless vetted by corporate IT, and they have to install it.

  22. anonymouscommenter says:

    Regarding wasting time waiting for the printout at the printer: would you rather waste that time waiting for the printout at your desk? Unless you are printing stuff you don't really need, how much real work can anyone really do while their documents are being printed? (and of course it's unhealthy to sit down all day anyway etc.)

  23. anonymouscommenter says:

    @Brian_EE: Don't worry, starting in a week, you can Print to PDF natively in Windows 10.

  24. anonymouscommenter says:

    Fax (and presumably scan to e-mail) confirmation pages come from legal requirements. It's evidence that the document was delivered to the recipient and can be necessary to prove a contract was executed or an order was accepted. One minor legal dispute that ends up going to the lawyers can easily cost the same as tens of thousands of printed confirmation pages.

    Back in the Telex days, the equivalent was the answerback codes printed at the start and end of the message.

  25. anonymouscommenter says:

    A week or two ago, much the same thing happened at my work: the previous printers were replaced by ones using a similar system, where we have to swipe our building access fobs on the card reader to print out.

    In our case this was touted as "you can print to any printer in the building" convenience feature, overlooking the fairly obvious fact that 99% of the time everyone was only printing to the printer nearest to their desks anyway, and the convenience of being able to print to a printer on the other side of a different floor is questionable at best.

    As far as I can see it just means that instead of doing other stuff while I wait for a document to print and then going over to collect it, I have to stand at the printer and wait for it to print. Fortunately I don't need to print things very often.

  26. cheong00 says:

    @Nick: Hope that it does a better job than Word 2007 "Save as PDF" function.

    My previous company once have a 26X pages DOCX manual that, for unknown reason, after adding a table at the back to show the meaning of various status icons, when trying to save the document as PDF will case it to generate infinate number of pages (I have to manually kill Word after it goes over 3000 pages)

    We gave it the nickname of "InfiniPrint". :P

  27. anonymouscommenter says:

    I'm not sure if it is available where I work, but I really wouldn't mind such a convenience feature since _I print extremely rarely in the first place_, so the basic question to those who wait is, "Do you really need to print? Can't you use an e-reader or a smartphone or whatever?"

    When I do need to print out something, often it needs to be in color and the printer on my own floor isn't. I'd rather not explore the building for easily accessible color printers, add them to my list of printers, make sure they had paper, etc. What people are describing sounds great.

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