Power User: Sometimes getting ahead means learning to make do

John McCormick

One year ago in this space, I wrote about the trouble I was having with an upgrade to Microsoft Windows XP Pro. I could no longer use a perfectly good Lexmark printer because it would take more trouble to make it compatible with XP Pro than simply buying a new Lexmark X5150 combo printer, fax and flat-bed scanner.

The new ink-jet was up and running in about five minutes, and it does a very nice job of applying spot color to documents as well as making great copies. I recommend it highly for quick print jobs.

My old Lexmark X63 is now relegated to fax service. Don't dismiss fax as outmoded: The government's slowness to stop spam could lead to a fax resurgence among users who absolutely, positively must get messages out.

I also rely on a unified messaging service, www.ureach.com, which combines a personal toll-free number, an answering machine, fax transmission and reception, and conventional e-mail, all for about $10 per month.

Junk faxing has already been outlawed by legislation. Unless Congress can curtail spam successfully, many users will return to faxing everyday business messages.

Another XP Pro incompatibility I found was that I could not synchronize my Handspring Visor handheld computer through the Universal Serial Bus docking cradle. Buying a replacement USB cradle seemed like a waste because the problem appeared to be a software driver. As with the X63 printer, I could eventually have found a technical remedy, but it was too expensive to bother with.

GCN readers often face similar problems with perfectly good technology made useless by lack of a replacement part. I sometimes get plaintive queries from users who have developed a software application only to find that the hardware it needs is no longer available. Here's a suggestion.
I'm now using that Handspring Visor again after buying a new Visor serial docking cradle from an online auction site for $1. Even with $5 for shipping, it was cheap enough to take a chance that it might work.

I spent only two or three minutes installing it'after wasting several hours trying to fix the original compatibility problem. I didn't even have to reinstall software but merely change the configuration setting from USB to serial port.

So, if you have useful applications sitting on the shelf because a hardware vendor has gone out of business or a necessary single component has gotten too expensive, I suggest trying to buy it cheaply online. Where one technology fails, you can sometimes turn to another.

Even large, multinational corporations have discovered that online auctions are a great way to unload inventory. Just be careful to check the seller's reputation first.

From here at Highland Ranch, holiday greetings and best wishes to all readers.

John McCormick is a free-lance writer and computer consultant. E-mail him at [email protected].

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