Tech Tips
My Mac Magazine #38, June ’98

Ah, it’s nice to be back and have a few minutes to continue with this column. This month I deal with a couple recent issues that I personally hit upon, namely two products: the Iomega Zip Plus drives and Epson printers. Keep in mind that I’m not recommending against buying these items, merely relaying my experiences with a variety of them.

Let’s start with the Zip Plus drives. Recently I’ve heard of (and ran into) many problems with the new Iomega Zip Plus drives. I had considered purchasing one myself, but didn’t since I already have two of the SCSI and one parallel models. If you aren’t familiar with the “Plus” model, well, it allows you to connect it to either a Mac (via SCSI) or an IBM compatible PC (via parallel or SCSI); previously you needed a Zip drive that had either interface.

The primary issue stems from a known bug that can cause data loss and/or corruption when using one of these drives on a SCSI bus (like the one on all Macs) but only if you don’t use their cable or have another SCSI device (like a hard drive or scanner) or use it on a PowerBook. It’s important to note that the bug also exists if you are using the Zip Plus on a PC with SCSI. If you have one of these drives and are experiencing this sort of problem Iomega’s support page indicates the following:

“ZipPlus customers who have questions about ZipPlus system
compatibility or who wish to receive an updated manual should
call Iomega technical support at 1-888-4-IOMEGA (888-446-6342).”
I’ve read on several technical sites that Iomega will exchange your drive for a standard Zip in some circumstances.

Next on the list is Epson printers. Before you read any further, keep in mind this will sound like a serious rant, which it probably is. I’ve run into lots of little quirks with Epson inkjet printers in the past (on Macs of course) and most of them were resolved by getting the latest driver. This isn’t a big deal in itself and certainly is easy to do, my complaint is that for a while it seemed there was a new “improved” driver released every other week. I gladly hear a different version from those of you who know otherwise.

My real concern is that the technical support that I’ve personally experienced (and several of my clients as well) is below the pitiful mark. Their website covered no issues except those in the Read Me files or in the manual; I have to admit that in checking the site before writing this article I found that Epson had indeed updated the site and included a few new articles.

What was wrong with the support? To start with (aside from the lack of technical docs on the Web) is an email to support did not get a response for over a week and a half! Unfortunately the response basically echoed what I indicated in the original message (the product didn’t do X and it:
(a) should,
(b) sometimes did,
(c) didn’t work in a correct fashion.

They also indicated that if I were experiencing further difficulty that I should call their tech support phone number. Of course I had broken down and called their (long distance) phone number, long before receiving the emailed reply, and sat on hold for over an hour and never did speak to a person. One of my clients experienced the exact same experience except they tried on 3 different occasions and racked up 4 hours of long distance calls (MI to CA) without ever even talking to a person. What also leads me to dislike their “support” is the annoying voice that pops up every X minutes to inform you of the vast support options available via their website (which I had explored in detail previously). This lack of support wouldn’t be all that unfortunate if the device in question weren’t Epson’s top-of-the-line full bleed color printer (3000 to be more precise) that the client relied heavily upon. Luckily I was not the one who recommended the printer.

I’m not suggesting that you not purchase this company’s products, merely that I won’t be recommending them in the near future to any of my clients. I’ve spoken with a number of other people who have experienced Epson’s support and have received a similar reaction from them. For what it’s worth the problem is not the software nor the Mac (contrary to what 98% of the support docs indicate) as I can prove it’s in the printer’s communications. I’d love to hear your opinion if it differs from mine.

What can you do if you hit a similar problem? The only options I can suggest is to call the vendor from whom you purchased the product and see if they can assist you in some way (replacement, service provider recommendation). If that doesn’t help, check with some of the more reputable troubleshooting email lists and/or websites. A local consultant or genuine service provider may also be able to assist you.

Real World Experience

The System: Power Macintosh 5260.
The Problem: New modem won’t connect to the Internet.
The Solution: Changed configurations.
The Explanation: This was an easy one (for me, anyhow) in that the client installed a new 56k modem and it was giving them continuous disconnect errors and even having trouble during the initial connection. Changing the port speed in Config PPP (Mac PPP 2.5) to a lower speed corrected it. They had it set for 115K and lowering it to 57,600 corrected the problem.

Jeramey R. Valley

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