- The Washington Times - Monday, July 31, 2000

How long is too long for an inkjet printer to be left on the sidelines? Apparently, two years, give or take a few months, isn't that long you might still be able to hook up an old, unused printer and put it to work right away.

Here's the scene at La Casa Kellner: I had to print some things out in color, and hauled out two of my older inkjets: a Hewlett Packard 722C and a Canon BJC-4550. Doing nothing more than attaching the printer to my PC via a parallel printer cable, I plugged in a power cord.

Finding software drivers for each printer necessary for operation with the Windows 98 operating system was no hassle. The driver files were easily found at the maker's Web sites (www.hp.com for Hewlett Packard; and www.ccsi.canon.com for Canon) and quickly downloaded and installed.

With everything set, I put some paper in the paper tray, switched each printer on and ran off a test page. Both machines fired up just fine. But in each case, I had differing print results. The Canon printer was OK on black ink; the color ink was a bit shaky. In contrast, the color inks on the HP were all right; it was the black printing that was off, as if all the ink jets were not firing properly.

A stop at my local computer supply store (though Costco would have worked just as well) led me to a new black ink print cartridge for the HP, and we're off and running.

This little experiment offers, I believe, a couple of bits of encouragement: One, if you find yourself facing an old inkjet printer, there might still be some life in it. Get the software drivers, fire it up, and see what happens. (Even with inkjet printer prices dipping below $100, a "free" printer trumps even a low-price model.)

Second, thanks to the bulk of printing technology residing in the cartridge (on some printers), a misfiring machine can be fixed for relatively low cost. This is great if all you need is an occasional color print, or if you want to add a second printer to your system, for whatever reason.

Of course, this isn't meant to discourage buying a new machine if that's your heart's desire. The latest inkjet models have new features and styling touches that may excite many users.

But with back-to-school time approaching, some people may want to get a little more life from that "old reliable" model that is gathering dust. Clean it off, try some new ink cartridges and see what happens.

Something good from Babylon? Maybe and I'm not talking about the town on Long Island, or the ancient name for what is now Iraq. Rather, I'm speaking about a "freeware" software application that offers a dictionary, as well as conversions between currencies, time zones and measurements. The program also translates a selected English word into any of 11 languages and gives an analysis of that word using its 3 million-word-plus encyclopedia and dictionary databases.

Once installed, the software will look up the definition of a word when that word is highlighted, using a combo of the keyboard Control key and the right mouse button. If you want to find out what time it is, open the Babylon software, click on conversions and you can compare hours in New York and Nairobi, change currency from U.S. dollars to Tunisian dinars, and handle measurements from "English" to metric.

The program also lets you translate words by highlighting them, opening the program and clicking on the small flag in the window. You can go from English to Dutch, German, Italian, Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese and six other tongues. Frequently used language dictionaries can be downloaded to a PC for off-line lookup and translation.

Best of all the software is free at www.babylon.com.

• Write to Mark Kellner in care of The Washington Times, Business Desk, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; send e-mail to MarkKel@aol.com, or visit the writer's Web page,

www.markkellner.com.

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