Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Homework timetable

Homework. Don't you just love it? This term, I've made a 3D model of the OS symbol for a telephone, helped write an article on Tollund Man, critiqued a musical performance, subbed a 500-word newspaper article on the Beckhams (500 words!) and torn up a years worth of magazines for an art project. And that's just the stuff I've been asked to do.
Now this may come as something of a shock, but I used to be a teacher. Really I did. I taught children in a classroom and everything. But I rarely, if ever, set homework. This was only partly due to the fact I was responsible for sex education. Mostly it was due to the fact that I couldn't see the point. Most kids get a pretty intensive day at school. Adding (often meaningless) extension tasks to the end of the day, giving them no time whatsoever to 'let it all hang out' is seldom a means of doing anything other than creating unnecessary extra marking. Quality, not quantity was my motto. Don't get me wrong. Sometimes it's not only desirable, but necessary. Just not always.
Anyway, we've got a lovely little homework helper this term. It's called the HP Photosmart C309 and I love it. Living in a three-story house, with a study on the top-floor, has it's ups and downs (ups and downs, geddit? Oh never mind...) Previously anything requiring printing would involve trek up two flights of stairs, a struggle with wires, an interminable wait while the printer made strange whirring noises, a false start when the noises stopped and you thought it might be safe to hit 'print' only to find it was only half way through its bending and stretching exercises and you now had a 'queue' of pending documents which was confusing it. Finally (when you'd almost given up) the damn thing would be ready to print. By which time I'd often gone downstairs again.
It was old. (It had a parallel port, geek people!) It needed putting out of its misery (or donating to granny). So when those awfully nice Hewlett-Packard people asked it I'd like to try out their new wireless model, I jumped at the chance. And that, dear reader, is the single greatest thing about the C309. There are no wires. Any one of our computers can be configured to print to it. We can be anywhere in the house. We could be in the garden. Up the street. Down the pub (well, possibly). But when we hit 'print', it prints. Quietly. Efficiently. And with the minimum of fuss.
But this isn't all it does. It prints on both sides of the paper - automatically (if you want it to) -without feeding the sheet back in. It's a photocopier (especially useful when you haven't access to, erm... someone else's anymore). It prints lab-quality photos from a memory stick just like you can do in Boots. It does a lot more besides, and I can't tell you what an advantage that has been this term. Since Sally started secondary school and the volume of homework has been cranking up, we've started doing industrial amounts of printing.
It was incredibly easy to install. You might've gathered, I'm no techie so that kind of thing's important. And so is having a simple troubleshooting guide when things go wrong. And here's where the HP support hasn't been so good. There have been times when the two things (printer, pc) seem to have fallen out and simply won't speak to each other, and sorting that out hasn't always been easy. There's also a fax-machine built in, but I'm darned if I can work out how to use it. You might be paying for more features than you need with this machine, but for an all-in-one home office accessory, it's pretty good.
Now, if HP could just invent some means of delivering the results without having to go upstairs to collect them, we'd be in printer heaven.

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